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New Brunswick makes medical abortion pill free to patients with Medicare card

New Brunswick follows through on promise to universal access to abortion pill
WATCH ABOVE: The New Brunswick government says the medical abortion pill is now available to those with valid medicare cards with no upfront cost to patients. Global’s Adrienne South has reaction from Fredericton.

The government of New Brunswick has delivered on its promise to make the medical abortion pill free to New Brunswickers who have a Medicare card.

New Brunswick Women’s Council executive director Beth Lyons said she’s thrilled the government has followed through with making Mifegymiso universally accessible.

“Of course when you hear an exciting announcement, particularly around reproductive rights access, you always hope that the announcement is going to quickly be followed by action, and I think that in this case it’s been fairly swift,” Lyons said.

READ MORE: New Brunswick to make medical abortion pill universally accessible

She said once patients get a prescription they can go to the pharmacy and won’t have to pay anything for the pills.  The combination two-step drug previously cost patients $300 out of pocket.

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“We, of course, hope government is going to monitor to make sure that there aren’t any gaps in coverage. We’re thinking particularly of folks like students from out of province but not out of country, as well as newcomers who may be residents, who may be very much living here, but might not have a valid Medicare card at the time that they would be seeking a medical abortion,” Lyons said.

Lyons said the New Brunswick Women’s Council believes the government designed the program to ensure the “broadest access possible,” but said they hope the feedback they provided to the province’s health minister, Victor Boudreau, was taken into account.

“One of the exciting things about a program like this is this was going to cost hundreds of dollars and I’m sure physicians in New Brunswick knew there would be plenty of folks who couldn’t afford the medication,” Lyons said. “So one of our hopes with government creating this public funding for it is that physicians will know finances are not going to be a barrier to access, so they’re going to incorporate that into their service offerings.”

READ MORE: NB Women’s Council identifies barriers to medical abortion

Ultrasounds are required for those getting a prescription for medical abortion to confirm the gestational period doesn’t exceed 49 days.  Lyons said physicians also still need to take a training course before they can prescribe the medication.

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In an email statement, Reproductive Justice New Brunswick spokesperson Allison Webster said the organization is “incredibly pleased” the provincial government followed through on their promise to make Mifegymiso available at no cost to people with Medicare cards.

“We continue to hope the Gallant government makes good on their election promise to remove all barriers to access. To truly improve abortion access in the province they must remove the restrictions on clinic-provided abortions, and finally fund procedures at Clinic 554,” Webster said.

New Brunswick Right to Life executive director Heather Hughes told Global News they would like to see the decision reversed.

“We believe it’s certainly very disappointing,” Hughes said.  “We believe that giving free drugs to end the life of an innocent human being is not the direction to go.  We believe that women need help and support during pregnancies and we would be hopeful that that is the direction that we would go.”

READ MORE: How the ‘abortion pill’ Mifegymiso could change reproductive health

Hughes says there are many side effects including bleeding and other complications that can arise.

“Obviously we would like the decision to be reversed, but that’s the decision that’s been taken so we will be continuing to reach out to women to offer them an alternative, to offer them help and support,” Hughes said. “If they chose to carry the pregnancy or want to know about prenatal information we’re there for them and we always will be.”

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