'Abortion pill' now fully covered by territorial government

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The territorial government will now fully cover Mifegymiso, a prescription drug known colloquially as the “abortion pill,” officials announced on Tuesday.

Back in November, the NWT's Department of Health and Social Services committed to funding the prescription for people who did not have insurance or government-sponsored health benefits.

Now, anyone with a valid NWT health care card who does not have full coverage for prescriptions under their insurance plan, or other programs, can get the total cost of Mifegymiso covered.

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In the NWT, a prescription for the two pills included, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, costs $486.

“The pharmacist will fill the prescription and bill your government/employer insurance,” explained the department. “The department will be sent an invoice for any outstanding amount that your insurance plan does not cover, or will invoice the entire amount if you do not have any insurance coverage at all.”

The territory is still developing a process to protect an individual’s privacy if they are under the plan of a parent or spouse.

The prescription can be used to terminate pregnancies up to the point of nine weeks' gestation.

People seeking the prescription will be required to receive counselling, be assessed to determine how far their pregnancy has progressed, and must ensure they have access to emergency medical care for two weeks after they’ve taken the second pill.

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They'll also receive a blood test or ultrasound after the two weeks to check the pregnancy has been terminated.

Recently, Health Canada removed ultrasound dating as a requirement before accessing the prescription, the territory said.

This in turn makes it easier for the NWT to look at how the prescription can be provided outside the two communities in which it is currently offered.

Currently, Mifegymiso is only available through the Northern Options for Women program in Yellowknife and Inuvik. 

While the government is looking to expand the program to other communities, in the meantime it will cover medical travel costs for people to come to Yellowknife and Inuvik to access Mifegymiso.

The NWT said it is also part of a federal working group looking at how women in outlying communities can safely access a prescription.

Speaking to Cabin Radio in November last year, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights' Frederique Chabot urged the territorial government to adopt a universal cost coverage program.

While the drug was only just approved for use in Canada in 2015 and it entered the market in 2017, Chabot said it’s not a new drug.

“It's a drug that has been used for over 30 years in the rest of the world and over 60 countries. So it's a medication that has been used by millions of people at this point. It's very safe, it's very effective,” said Chabot.

She said the Northwest Territories is one of the last provinces and territories to offer universal coverage.