Published on Aug 12, 2016
by Terri Coles
Ontario doctors may be able to prescribe and distribute a Health Canada-approved abortion drug by as early as this fall, but some activists and researchers say federal conditions on its use will do little to make pregnancy termination available to the many women who live far from clinics or hospitals that provide abortions.
Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is a drug that induces a medical abortion by blocking progesterone, a hormone needed to maintain pregnancy. In Canada, where it is sold under the brand name Mifegymiso, federal regulations allow the drug to be taken up to 49 days past a woman’s last menstrual period. Unlike Plan B, which prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg and is meant to be taken within a couple days of having unprotected sex, mifepristone terminates a pregnancy. The drug can widen access to abortion care by providing a non-surgical option that doesn’t have to be administered in a hospital or clinic.
“The nature of the existing restrictions on mifepristone suggest that the motivations to regulate it go beyond considerations for the women’s health,” says Rachael Johnstone, an assistant professor of politics and gender studies at Queen’s University who specializes in Canadian abortion access. “The amount of oversight that’s required is somewhat condescending, and it’s not clear that it’s [medically] required.”