Manitobans face obstacles to access medical, surgical abortions, clinic official says

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If the Women's Health Clinic were funded to provide medical and surgical abortions four days a week instead of only two, it could shrink burdensome wait lists, its executive director says.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2018 (1506 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If the Women’s Health Clinic were funded to provide medical and surgical abortions four days a week instead of only two, it could shrink burdensome wait lists, its executive director says.

Currently, the wait at the clinic for a medical abortion using the drug Mifegymiso is two weeks. For a surgical abortion, it’s three weeks, Nadine Sookermany said.

The clinic receives enough money from the province to provide abortions only two days a week. It’s funded to perform 1,600 abortions per year.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Nadine Sookermany, executive director of the Women's Health Clinic.

Using the abortion pill, the timelines are more restrictive for women than with surgical abortions. A woman may not be beyond her ninth week of pregnancy when Mifegymiso is administered. (The WHC provides surgical abortion up to 16 weeks, while Health Sciences Centre does so up to 19.6 weeks.)

In an interview Tuesday, Sookermany said the clinic has made the case to government for greater funding to improve access to abortion in Manitoba — so far to no avail.

“Unfortunately, it hasn’t been entertained,” she said.

Recently, the Globe and Mail compared access to the abortion pill across Canada. Manitoba women were seen as having some of the greatest challenges in obtaining a medical abortion.

While Mifegymiso was added to the province’s formulary in the summer of 2017, the Globe, citing data from a pharmaceutical analytics firm, said the evidence suggests that for some Manitoba women, getting a prescription from a family doctor and having it filled at a local pharmacy are a challenge. Fewer than two dozen Manitoba physicians have been trained to prescribe it.

Access and cost are still an issue for many women in Manitoba. Abortions — medical or surgical — are available free of charge at two locations in Winnipeg (WHC and Health Sciences Centre) and one location in Brandon.

Mifegymiso is covered for women on Employment and Income Assistance and women who meet their Pharmacare deductible, which is calculated based on income; the minimum deductible is $100. Once a woman reaches her deductible, Pharmacare pays for 100 per cent of eligible prescription costs for the remainder of the benefit year, a government spokeswoman said.

Status of Women Minister Rochelle Squires, who oversees abortion services, was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Her staff said she was attending the UN Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders’ Forum in Edmonton.

Sookermany said the Women’s Health Clinic’s abortion clients come from across the province. While travel costs are considerable for some, the WHC ensures that all women receive the service in one day, minimizing the cost of accommodations.

The clinic is also working to train doctors in various parts of the province in the use of Mifegymiso to reduce travel costs. It is also producing a map showing where the service can be found.

“Once we have that map, we can say to clients who call us, ‘Rather than travel to Winnipeg to come to our site, there is a physician in your community who is offering this,'” Sookermany said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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