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Medical abortions: coming to a physician’s office near you?

So, this week isn’t about sex per se, but rather about a potentially revolutionary pill that could help you deal with the unwanted aftermath of said sex, up to nine weeks later.

According to an article published on December 24 in the Globe and Mail, Health Canada is currently deliberating on legalizing a pill containing mifepristone, a drug which, combined with another medication which is already available by prescription from any physician, can medically terminate an early pregnancy by inducing contractions.

According to Planned Parenthood, once the mifepristone is taken, it stops the production of progesterone, which causes the lining of your uterus to break down. When combined with the second drug (of which there are currently several available varieties, the most common of which being misoprostol), the uterus will begin to shed, causing the pregnancy to end. It could take up to three weeks for the pregnancy to be expelled. Basically, it’s just like getting a particularly heavy and crampy period.

Health Canada is taking their sweet time with the decision to legalize mifepristone—it’s been something like 800 days that they’ve been agonizing over whether or not to make the pill available through any hospital or clinic—normally, they have a window of 300 days to reach a decision, according to the same article.

The delay is questionable, as mifepristone is already legally available in over 60 countries worldwide, including our notoriously conservative neighbours in the United States.

The decision should be reached by the second week of January, so if all goes according to plan, the drug could become available much sooner than later.

Abortion is currently legal in Canada, though depending on where you live, it can be almost impossible to actually access a clinic where they are performed. According to Global News, almost half of the 94 abortion facilities in the country are located in Quebec, while British Columbia and Ontario have relatively accessible facilities in city centres as well as in selected rural areas. However, there are only eight abortion facilities throughout the Prairies, four in all of the Territories, and four throughout Atlantic Canada. Prince Edward Island doesn’t have any.

Especially for these girls and women living outside of main cities in Canada, making mifepristone available from any doctor could mean the difference between spending large amounts of time and money to travel cross-country to the nearest abortion clinic (or resorting to less safe, less preferable options), and being able to pick up the prescription from their local doctor and receive the medical abortion.

And instead of having to endure an invasive procedure in some sterile-looking office, getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy could be just as simple as visiting the clinic and popping a pill.

Of course, this is not to say that medical abortion is any less of a potentially difficult and emotional decision to make as a procedural one would be. But, in creating this new option, it would make that decision just a little bit easier, just a little bit more comfortable for a lot of women.

Statistics Canada reported last year that roughly 31 per cent of Canadian women have had an abortion in their lives. Making it that much more accessible, and that much less invasive, could simply make better a process that is already extremely common and extremely safe.

All of which to say, stay tuned for updates. We could have a revolution on our hands.


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