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How the pandemic is affecting abortion services in Canada

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How the pandemic is affecting abortion services in Canada

With the current pandemic, governments all around the globe are banning non-essential services, in hopes of slowing down the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Although the Canadian government assured us that abortion services are essential and will remain open, it is being restricted in more and more countries, such as Italy, Ireland and more recently, the United Stated of America. Canada has restricted access to certain sexual health services that were considered non-essential, such as STI testing and pap smears. Here’s how the pandemic is affecting abortion services in Canada.

Approximately 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime before they are 45, and that number will likely increase in our current context. Indeed, according to Jen Villavicencio, M.D., an ob-gyn and abortion practitioner, the reasons people seek abortions will not go away during this pandemic. Quite the opposite, health concerns, financial barriers, and severe fetal diagnoses will probably increase during this crisis.

Furthermore, according to a 2016 Texas study (a state that has many restrictions when it comes to abortions), where women are three times more likely to attempt a termination of their pregnancy on their own than other women. Such unsafe terminations can be highly risky. In fact it results in 350 deaths per 100 000 unsafe abortions. Therefore, an abortion ban would undeniably have a negative impact, but what about an abortion delay? According to the numbers, abortions get riskier depending on how far along you are. Abortions done after 21 weeks have a 8.6 deaths per 100 000 cases, compared to when they are done before 8 weeks which has a 0.1 death per 100 000 cases.

While Canada will unlikely face a possible abortion ban like the states of Ohio, Texas, Mississippi and Kentucky have, women who have a late-term abortions, which is performed when there are several abnormalities or serious risks to the health of the mother, will be at risk. Usually, those women are sent to specialized clinics in the U.S because there is no clinic that performs them in Canada, but with the pandemic, traveling to the U.S is highly restricted.

This pandemic could also impact the stock of Mifegymiso, the drug given to terminate the pregnancy non-surgically. Currently, this is the method that is the most optimal, as human contacts must be limited. Last month, there was a shortage of this drug amid the pandemic. The shortage of Mifegymiso was caused by a late shipment. With this drug being fabricated in Europe, which is highly impacted by the virus, the shipment had to remain in Montreal for the security of the employees, causing it to be late.

Furthermore, depending on the province, abortion clinics modified an aspect that was important to women who get an abortion, they will no longer be allowed to bring in a support person due to the pandemic.

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