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Ontario making abortion pill Mifegymiso free for all who need it

Picture shows bottles of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 THE CANADIAN PRES/AP,Charlie Neibergall

The Ontario government is promising to soon make an abortion pill free for all women in the province.

Mifegymiso, known as RU-486 outside of Canada, is a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. After years of study, Health Canada approved its use as a non-surgical option for abortion up to seven weeks. It became available to the Canadian public in January and costs $300 to $450.

According to the Ontario health minister’s office, the government is in conversations with the drug manufacturer, Celopharma, and hopes to begin covering the drug in the near future. Women with a prescription will be able to get it for free at a pharmacy.

The announcement, made in the Ontario budget released Thursday, was welcomed by reproductive rights advocates.

Lyndsey Butcher, executive director of the Shore Centre, a sexual health resource centre in the Waterloo, Ont, region, said she was thrilled by the news.

Even though the abortion pill was technically made available to Canadians in January, access to it has been limited, Butcher said, and women in her area have had to go to abortion clinics in Toronto to obtain it.

Butcher hopes the Ontario government’s decision to make the pill free will encourage more doctors to take a mandatory six-hour online training course on Mifegymiso and then offer a prescription for patients who need it.

Women will be able to fill their prescription at a pharmacy and have the abortion – which is the same experience as an early-term miscarriage – at home, she said.

“It’s about personal preference and choice,” Butcher said. “Some women would rather have the abortion at home, in their own time. Whereas, with surgical abortion women need to go into a clinic, often past protesters.”

Catherine Macnab, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, said her organization is trying to build a network of doctors and pharmacists who can support each other in making Mifegymiso available to patients.

She said it’s not an easy choice for doctors, in part because not all want to be known as abortion providers. Doctors must also confirm the pregnancy is in its early stages with an ultrasound before the drug can be prescribed and, for some, that can be difficult to arrange quickly, she said.

Mifegymiso has been commonly used in some other countries for nearly three decades, including France. It’s been available in the U.S. since 2000.

New Brunswick and Alberta also recently announced the drug would be available in those provinces for free.