The College of Physicians has released a report to take stock of the abortion pill in Quebec: in its first year of availability, it calculates that it was chosen by women for around 8% of abortions.
The Canadian Press
This means that at least 2130 women preferred this option to terminate their pregnancy, rather than a surgical abortion.
The abortion pill, available for pregnancies up to nine weeks old, can be taken at home and is an alternative to surgical abortion.
These data make the College of Physicians say that the abortion pill is well established in Quebec.
The figures indicate a minimum: the College has collected data on the abortion pill from the abortion clinics that offer it. The majority of them – 46 on 52 – sent their figures to the College. But the pill is also available in pharmacies on presentation of a prescription signed by a doctor: these cases were not all counted in the study, but an estimate of approximately 200 women was calculated, included in the figure of 2130.
It is therefore likely that more women used the abortion pill than the figures reported, noted in an interview the secretary of the College of physicians, D r Yves Robert.
He warns that it should not be confused with the “morning after pill”, which prevents pregnancy after sexual intercourse, but which does not interrupt the pregnancy if the egg is already fertilized, as it is the case for the abortion pill.
The latter has been available free of charge in Quebec since the start of the year 2018. However, administrative issues led to a delay of a few months in its deployment, notes the College.
For this reason, the 8% remains an estimate that “takes into account the shorter supply period of the abortion pill”, we can read in the report.
The College thus wanted to deliver an assessment of the first year, by examining the period from 1 er January 2018 to 31 may 2019. During this period, 31 169 surgical abortions were also done in Quebec.
Just over a year after its introduction, 87% of abortion clinics said they offered the abortion pill . And its use has increased over the months under study, it is reported.
The D r Yves Robert is satisfied with the results and judges that the abortion pill is good established.
He points out that in Quebec, women have a real choice: they can opt for the abortion pill or a surgical abortion, because there is a real network of abortion clinics in the province. Half of the clinics in Canada are there, he says. For example, in New Brunswick, which no longer has an abortion clinic, many women have turned to the abortion pill, notes the doctor.
The fact that only 8% of Quebec women chose the abortion pill to terminate their pregnancy is not a problem in itself, he says. First, it was the first year in which it was accessible, he recalls.
And then, “we don't recommend one method or the other,” he explained in an interview.
“We recommend what is suitable for women. It is the objective. “
He also adds that women must have a safe follow-up, in case of complications.
What would be a failure for him would be that this pill is not available in all regions of Quebec.
In the first year, it was used in all corners of the province, according to the data in the report. “But some regions are large! “, He exclaimed, giving the North Shore as an example.
If the woman has to travel hundreds of kilometers to get it, is this a real access? asks the doctor. “There are surely regions which are less well served. “
A second phase of study will verify geographic accessibility.
In Quebec, physicians who were not already performing abortions must have undergone training in the area of voluntary abortion to prescribe the abortion pill. The College of Physicians was criticized last year for imposing this requirement, seen by some as an additional restriction on access, which does not exist in other provinces.
A year later, D r Robert does not believe that this requirement was a real barrier: “this did not prevent more 2000 women from obtaining it”.
Besides, the goal is not that more women take the abortion pill and increase the percentage by 8%. The goal is to make it accessible for those who want this option, insists the doctor.
And if in other provinces nurse practitioners can prescribe it, the College indicates that it has not had any requests from them for this purpose.
He agrees that “this could be one of the options to facilitate access”.