RE: Sexual and reproductive health information and services must be deemed essential during COVID-19
Dear Minister Hajdu,
Thank you for all that you and your government is doing to respect and protect the health and rights of people in Canada during these challenging times. We appreciate your adoption of a human rights-based approach, the focus on science and evidence, and the compassion shared for all those experiencing the mental, physical, and financial effects emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. In times of crisis, it is particularly important to reaffirm access to essential health services – including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health.
In the short time that we have been living with the impacts of COVID-19 in Canada, we have already heard from distressed individuals who are unable to travel to the United States for abortion care beyond 24 weeks. We have heard from those who are unable to terminate pregnancies, and those who have made the difficult choice to terminate a wanted pregnancy due to the insecurities caused by this global pandemic.
Given the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) across the country, abortion providers are being asked to round up their PPE and send it elsewhere to be used in COVID-19 response. This means abortion services must be scaled back as providers face a lack of the necessary equipment to provide care in a way that reduces transmission and risk of COVID-19. People we speak to on our 24-hour access line have told us they have been unable to access contraceptives due to the closure of many sexual health centres and the decrease in access to primary health care providers. Many individuals are also experiencing difficulty paying for contraceptives due to financial insecurity as they face job losses and work reductions.
We are deeply concerned that we will see a significant increase in unplanned pregnancies in the months to come coupled with limited access to abortion services. Abortion providers are flexible and adaptive, and have moved as many components of care as possible to telemedicine, but the lack of billing codes that appropriately compensate for this care is a major barrier to implementation.
Seeing these increasing challenges across Canada, we call on your immediate leadership to:
- Publicly affirm that sexual and reproductive health services are essential and need to remain accessible
- Extend the prescribing limit of medical abortion to 12 weeks/84 days
- Engage all Provinces and Territories towards:
- Provide 100% cost coverage for all contraceptive options
- Allow pharmacists to prescribe contraception
- Ensure timely access to abortion care
- Create a telemedicine billing code for medical abortion
We ask to schedule a phone meeting with you at your earliest convenience to relay the concerns of rights holders and health care providers whom we hear from directly. We further look forward to working with you and your colleagues to implement these important measures as soon as possible.
Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director, [email protected], 613-241-4474 x3
CC: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Maryam Monsef, P.C., M.P. Minister for Women and Gender Equality
 In line with existing billing codes for medical abortion.