On August 3, the Ontario government announced it would pay for the abortion pill Mifegymiso for all residents with a valid health card effective one week later.

The ministry of health’s statement said, “Ontario is giving women more choice over their reproductive health by making Mifegymiso, a safe and effective medical alternative to surgical abortion, available at no cost.”

Indira Naidoo-Harris, Minister of the Status of Women, on behalf of Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care,  made the announcement at the Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre in Toronto. She said funding the abortion drug “means women across Ontario will have fair and equal access to safe abortion without payment, judgment, or exception.” She said doing so was “about fairness” and “safety” and that “it’s the right thing to do.”

Planned Parenthood groups across the province praised the move. Sarah Hobbs-Blyth of PP Toronto said the funding announcement “is the right decision” and PP Ottawa tweeted it was “great news.”

Campaign Life Coalition condemned the move. CLC national president Jim Hughes said the abortion drug is wrong because it kills a preborn child and criticized provincial governments for making taxpayers foot the bill. Marie-Claire Bissonnette, CLC youth coordinator, said the costs go beyond the $337.25 the province will pay for each abortion pill, but also the costs of doctor’s appointments, follow-up visits, the surgical abortions in the 5 per cent of chemical abortions that don’t complete the procedure, and treating the side-effects of the abortion pill. The Food and Drug Administration acknowledges that hemorrhaging and infections occur in 1 in 50 cases and that adverse affects in the cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive and nervous system have been cited.

CLC’s Johanne Brownrigg told the CBC her organization is launching a campaign to educate women about the dangers of Mifegymiso to deter them from taking it.

Since Mifegymiso became available in January, there has been a campaign to get it covered by provincial health plans. New Brunswick announced it would pay for it even before the Common Drug Review approved provincial drug coverage of the abortion pill on April 20. In July, Manitoba and Alberta began paying for the chemical abortion and Quebec announced over the summer that it would begin covering it this fall.

In a statement, CLC said: “Campaign Life Coalition calls on all provincial governments funding mifegymiso to stop pouring taxpayer’s money into an abortion method that has shown to have killed and endangered multiple women, is conscientiously opposed by thousands of taxpayers, and kills pre-born children.”

Abortion advocates are also calling on the provinces to override Health Canada regulations limiting Mifegymiso to seven weeks into the pregnancy, requiring an ultrasound first to ensure there is not an ectopic pregnancy, and demanding doctors take an online course before being able to prescribe the abortion pill. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights said the regulations mean that women in rural and remote areas will not be able to easily access the abortion drug.

According to news reports, 150 doctors have taken the online course required by Health Canada to prescribe Mifegymiso; there are approximately 15,000 physicians in Ontario. Health Canada also requires doctors distribute the drug in their office and watch women take the pill, although Kathleen Wynne’s government in Ontario has overridden the latter restriction.

Carolyn Egan of the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics told the Toronto Star it will take time before the level of access they were hoping for becomes a reality. CLC’s Hughes told The Interim it is telling that modest restrictions in place to make chemical abortion marginally safer raise the ire of abortion advocates. “Their fanatical opposition to any restriction, even though almost all drugs and medical procedures have limits,” Hughes pointed out, “illustrates that they do not care about choice or women’s health, they only care about maximizing the amount of baby killing that goes on.”