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N.S. providing timely abortion access, health minister says

Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness, responds to a reporter's questions as from left, Gaetan Barrette, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, John Haggie, Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Health and Community Services, and Kelvin Goertzen, Manitoba Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living listen in at a press conference during the Conferences of Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health in Winnipeg, Thursday, June 28, 2018. .
Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness, responds to a reporter's questions as from left, Gaetan Barrette, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, John Haggie, Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Health and Community Services, and Kelvin Goertzen, Manitoba Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living listen in at a press conference during the Conferences of Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health in Winnipeg, Thursday, June 28, 2018. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Nova Scotia’s health minister says he believes there is timely access to abortion services in the province despite calls from advocates to improve access.

Randy Delorey said Thursday the province has taken steps to improve access to abortion services, including funding the abortion pill in November 2017 and giving Nova Scotians the option to self-refer for an abortion earlier this year.

Delorey said it’s his understanding that most women get “relatively timely access” of within a day or two because of dedicated spots available for ultrasound services at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, which handles 80 per cent of abortions in the province.

“The information that I’ve been provided shows that the services being made available are available when they are needed,” Delorey told reporters at the legislature.

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The call for better access came after The Globe and Mail’s Atlantic bureau chief published an account of her experience hitting multiple roadblocks while trying to get an abortion in Nova Scotia, before eventually flying to Toronto for the procedure.

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Although Delorey won’t speak to that specific case, he says abortion services are managed by clinicians who are following national guidelines and recommendations.

He said clinical guidelines are not managed by the government.

“My understanding is there are national clinical guidelines and best practices that set those parameters,” Delorey said. “The question about at what point and when services are provided are not government policy positions … and I will continue to defer to the clinicians to make those appropriate determinations.”

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In Nova Scotia, patients can have a medical abortion using pills up to the ninth week of pregnancy while surgical abortions can be obtained up to 15 weeks into a pregnancy.

The Health Department says three regional hospitals offer abortion services in addition to the primary location at Halifax’s QE II facility.

It says physicians and nurse practitioners are able to prescribe Mifegymiso and the department has recorded 62 different prescribers to date.