Only one Canadian province does not fully cover the cost of the abortion pill, Mifegymiso. Now that Manitoba has announced its plans to provide universal access to the abortion pill, Canada only has one province remaining that has yet to follow suit. Manitoba's Minister responsible for Status of Women, Rochelle Squires, explained to reporters that increasing access to the abortion pill will directly benefit women who want to remain in their home communities.
"Our analysis shows that it is more cost-effective for women to stay in their own community to access reproductive health services, where possible," she told The Canadian Press last weekend.
She continued, "We also know that for many women, it is preferable to be able to stay in their community instead of coming into a place like Brandon or Winnipeg." Mifegymiso is currently only available for free at medical clinics in Winnipeg and Brandon that offer surgical abortions.
Mifegymiso, which can terminate a pregnancy up to nine weeks in, is fully covered by taxpayers in all Canadian provinces, with the exception of Saskatchewan. The provincial government has faced unyielding pressure from advocacy groups to update its policies that surround universal access.
Unless they have private insurance or low-income pharmacare coverage, women would otherwise have to shell out over $300 for the two-pill treatment. The new system will enable women to get a prescription filled at a pharmacy for free. "I don’t have an exact timeline right now, but we’re wanting to move quickly on this," Squires stated.
As the only province that does not fully cover the cost of the abortion pill, Saskatchewan is reconsidering the prospect of offering the drug for free. A spokesperson for the provincial government stated yesterday that Minister of Health Jim Reiter may publicly announce his decision, "as early as the end of this week."
CBC News reported that Reiter had issued a request to the Drug Plan and Extended Benefits Branch in the Ministry of Health to conduct a review of the universal coverage of Mifegymiso. Yesterday, the government notified the public that the results of the review would officially be announced in the near future.
According to the Ministry of Health, 482 prescriptions for Mifegymiso were dispensed in Saskatchewan between September 2017 and December 2018, and 138 of those were either fully or partially covered by the province's drug plan.
Earlier this year, medical students from the University of Saskatchewan met with the province's health minister to ask for universal access. The group of students alleged that by refusing to provide access to the abortion pill, but permitting access to surgical abortions, the province is actually violating the Canada Health Act.
A member of the University of Saskatchewan's medical student group, Alan Chan, explained to CBC News that providing universal access is a "women's right." "It's something that should be accessible and free to all women for the purpose of safety and efficiency, as well as for the purpose of cost savings from a national perspective."
He also claimed that after Manitoba announced its public funding of the drug, Saskatchewan no longer has a "shield" of provinces to stand alongside.