Source: Elizabeth Cameron for Metro
You’re probably familiar with birth doulas – but have you heard of an abortion doula?
The province recently announced it would be providing Mifegymiso – a two-drug combination that induces a medical abortion up until the seventh week of pregnancy – for no charge.
Health Canada approved Mifegymiso for use in July 2015, but the uptake has been slow because it isn’t cheap: it costs $325 out-of-pocket. The prescription, typically taken at home on two separate days, effectively induces a miscarriage.
Jessica Shaw, a founding member of Action Canada on Sexual Health and Rights (Action Canada) and associate professor at the faculty of social work at the University of Calgary, said some women will want and need support during the process, and others won’t.
“What I hope is that that person is surrounded by as many loving family and friends that they want to have around,” Shaw said.
But, if they don’t have that support, there are abortion doulas who will provide it.
Andi Johnson has been a birth doula for eight years and expanded into a full-spectrum practice more than a year ago. She said it’s impossible to know how someone will feel during or after an abortion because it’s such a personal experience.
“Some people are affected big-time with an abortion, so it’s good to have support systems in place, and some people are completely relieved – it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.”
According to Action Canada, one-third of women of reproductive age will have an abortion in their lifetime, but he shame and stigma surrounding it means support is not always easy to find, according to Johnson.
“Maybe they don’t have a really supportive friend or family or a partner who is both supportive and knowledgeable,” she said. “My role is to be their biggest advocate and their biggest cheerleader – no matter what they’re feeling about themselves or what other people are telling them about themselves.”
Currently, surgical abortions are provided in Canada up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
Health information officer for Action Canada, Frederique Chabot, said providing medical abortion is about giving women more choices.
“For some people, surgical abortion is much more preferable and for some, medical abortion is much more preferable,” Chabot said.
She said because physicians across the province will be able to prescribe Mifegymiso, women in rural areas won’t have to travel such long distances, miss work, or find childcare to access the service.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said a follow-up appointment – ideally with the same doctor who wrote the prescription – will be mandatory.
“There’s also going to be a requirement for physicians that don’t feel comfortable directing patients in this option for them to refer to others who will,” the minister told Metro – a similar approach the province took with physicians concerned about providing medically-assisted deaths.
Mifegymiso has been available in France for nearly 30 years and is approved for use in more than 50 countries worldwide, with some restrictions.
Hoffman said the drug-plan details are still being worked out, but the two-step prescription will be available to Albertans for no charge within the next few months.