It is about to get a lot easier for women to get an abortion in Canada. Due to recent improvements in prescribing guidelines, women looking to have abortions in Canada will now have much better and quicker access. Health Canada announced Mifegymiso is now accessible without a mandatory ultrasound.
According to a statement issued by Health Canada on April 16, 2019, new changes have been made to the prescribing of abortion pills. The public statement says that doctors in Canada now no longer require the patient to get an ultrasound prior to receiving the pills.
Previously in Canada, it was mandatory for patients to receive an ultrasound before a doctor could prescribe the abortion pill. This was done in order to confirm how long the patient was pregnant for, also known as gestational age.
Now, doctors have the ability to prescribe the drug based on their own medical judgments to determine the gestational age. This makes the need for an ultrasound subject to a case by case examination.
According to Health Canada, this now eliminates major barriers to those who seek out abortions. It also eliminates any delays in receiving the pills.
While ultrasounds are no longer mandatory, they could still be required by some doctors if they are not able to determine the gestational age. An ultrasound may also be required if a doctor suspects that the pregnancy is occurring outside of the womb. The abortion pills can be prescribed to any patient who is under nine weeks pregnant.
Dr. Wendy Norman spoke to Huffington Post about this latest medical change. According to Norman, this will be the biggest and most significant benefit to abortion services as this makes them more widely available.
A study of women seeking abortions conducted in 2013 found that 44.9 percent of the participants had to travel an hour or more to access abortion services. The same study suggests that barriers are often more apparent depending on a patient's race and class. For instance, Indigenous women “were almost three times more likely to report travelling over 100 km to access a clinic.”
Back in 2015, the abortion pill was approved by Health Canada as an alternative to surgical abortion. Prior to this, the pills were already approved in more than 60 countries outside of Canada.