Manitoba, Saskatchewan approve universal Mifegymiso access

Women in Manitoba and Saskatchewan will soon have universal access to an effective form of contraception.

Universal access to the pill Mifegymiso, used to terminate early pregnancies, was announced by the Manitoba government June 1. The province plans to expand access to the drug throughout Manitoba and cover costs for anyone needing Mifegymiso.

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“Our analysis shows that it is more cost-effective for women to stay in their own community to access reproductive health services, where possible,” provincial status of women minister Rochelle Squires said to the Canadian Press.

“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.”

Not to be outdone, Saskatchewan announced similar plans on June 7, allowing for universal coverage immediately for Mifegymiso.

“This is a very divisive issue. It is an issue where you are not going to make everyone happy. Federal law has made it very clear that abortion needs to be provided. This is a less invasive way of doing that,” provincial health minister Jim Reiter told CBC.

Mifegymiso is a drug used to terminate pregnancy. Commonly called the “abortion pill,” it is effective up to about two months after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. Also known as RU-486 and Mifepristone, the treatment is between 96 per cent and 98 per cent effective.

The drug was approved by Health Canada in 2015 and was made available to the public in 2017 after restrictions on access were lifted. In July 2017, the Manitoba government began covering the cost of Mifegymiso to women accessing some health care facilities in Brandon and Winnipeg.

Without coverage of the costs, the drug can cost up to $350 per treatment. Every other province in Canada, along with both Yukon and the Northwest Territories, had previously announced universal cost coverage for Mifegymiso.

Currently, Mifegymiso is accessible directly through the Northern Health Region (NHR), but northern residents can access the drug through other medical facilities.

“While this medication is not carried in nor dispensed from our hospital pharmacies, the Northern Health Region does not prohibit nor mandate individual healthcare providers from taking the required course or prescribing the medication to patients,” read a comment supplied to The Reminder from an NHR spokesperson.

“Retail pharmacies could fill the prescriptions and the NHR would be unaware of when this happens.”

Abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy in Canada. In Manitoba, surgical abortions are only performed at three sites in Winnipeg and Brandon.

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