How COVID-19 has hindered — and helped — abortion entry in Nova Scotia

2021-05-05 14:30:16

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an influence on nearly all sides of well being care, and abortion entry isn’t an exception.

For Shannon Hardy, founding father of Abortion Help Providers Atlantic, COVID-19 hasn’t essentially created new issues, but it surely’s highlighted points that had been there lengthy earlier than the pandemic.

“Geography, at all times,” she mentioned of the most important challenges going through somebody looking for abortion.

“Individuals are coming into Halifax, so in the event you don’t have a automotive otherwise you don’t have a method in, that’s at all times the most important problem.”

Abortion Help Providers Atlantic is a volunteer-run, pro-choice group that helps individuals entry abortion providers within the Atlantic provinces.

4 Nova Scotia hospitals at present carry out vacuum aspiration abortions. They’re positioned in Halifax, Bridgewater, Kentville and Truro, however most are achieved in Halifax.

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Shannon Hardy during the “2020 Choice Chain” in Moncton.


Shannon Hardy throughout the “2020 Selection Chain” in Moncton.


Contributed by Shannon Hardy

Though present COVID-19 restrictions prohibit Nova Scotians travelling outdoors of somebody’s group for non-essential causes, persons are nonetheless allowed to journey for well being care, which incorporates abortions.

However what if somebody must journey even farther?

Nova Scotia’s present gestational restrict for aspiration abortions is 15.5 weeks, so if somebody misses that cut-off, they should depart the province to get an abortion.

Pre-pandemic, the most typical vacation spot was Ontario, which has an extended gestational restrict, however Ontario stopped out-of-province abortions throughout COVID-19.


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Throughout the pandemic, Hardy mentioned her group assisted a affected person who missed the gestational closing date and needed to journey to Vancouver in the midst of a pandemic to get the process achieved.

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The girl needed to “keep in a resort, determine the right way to navigate a metropolis she’d by no means been to,” and when she returned to Nova Scotia she needed to miss two weeks of labor as a result of she was in self-isolation.

Abortion Help Providers Atlantic needed to fundraise to assist pay for the prices incurred. Hardy mentioned this duty shouldn’t need to fall on them.

“That’s the mind-boggling half, {that a} group of volunteers is doing all of this,” she mentioned. “But when we didn’t, then individuals wouldn’t have entry to well being care.”

Whereas there are geographical points in the case of abortion entry in Nova Scotia — primarily affecting Cape Breton, which doesn’t have aspiration abortion providers on the island — Hardy famous it’s an issue throughout Atlantic Canada, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, which solely has a clinic in St. John’s.

Meaning individuals in different areas of Newfoundland might have to journey for hours to get an abortion, and people dwelling in Labrador would wish to fly to St. John’s on their very own dime.


Hardy says geography is an entry to abortion throughout Atlantic Canada, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Contributed by Shannon Hardy

Whereas well being care is meant to be free in Canada, individuals getting abortions typically need to pay in a roundabout way, corresponding to paying for journey or having to take time without work work, mentioned Hardy.

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Making abortion obtainable at extra places might assist alleviate a few of these points, she mentioned, particularly these associated to journey.

“Abortion is well being care, and but we don’t provide it all over the place we might,” mentioned Hardy. “There’s no motive individuals have to be leaving their dwelling communities, particularly throughout a pandemic.”

Hardy wish to see stricter punishment for provinces that fail to supply satisfactory entry to abortion.

Learn extra:
Canada cuts well being switch in response to New Brunswick’s place on abortion outdoors hospitals

She pointed to New Brunswick, the place the federal authorities just lately decreased the Canada Well being Switch by roughly $140,000 because of the province’s refusal to fund out-of-hospital abortions, however mentioned that quantity was “a drop within the bucket.”

“It was like giving a $25 fantastic to a millionaire,” she mentioned. “That might be one factor: to really fantastic provinces who don’t provide well being care in an quantity that truly makes an influence.”


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‘Wonderful uptake’ for treatment abortion

Whereas COVID-19 has made travelling for abortions extra of a problem, the pandemic has truly helped enhance abortion entry in some methods, in response to Martha Paynter, a PhD candidate at Dalhousie’s college of nursing and a registered nurse working in abortion care.

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She mentioned a toll-free line for individuals looking for an abortion in Nova Scotia — the one one in every of its variety within the nation — continues to be answered on daily basis and wait instances for abortions are usually fairly low.

“We now have not had a day of interruption in entry to this important service,” she mentioned, including that demand for abortions has truly gone down throughout the pandemic.

“Individuals are depressed, and they’re having much less intercourse.”

Learn extra:
Nova Scotia launches toll-free cellphone line for ladies contemplating an abortion

Paynter mentioned COVID-19 has additionally made telemedicine extra frequent, and it’s simpler for sufferers throughout the nation to entry Mifegymiso, a tablet that may be taken to terminate a being pregnant.

“So, moderately than having to make an appointment and go see somebody to get this prescription, you may have that dialog over the cellphone,” she mentioned.

A few third of abortions in Nova Scotia are actually achieved via Mifegymiso.

“That’s wonderful uptake, because the treatment has solely been available on the market since 2017,” mentioned Paynter.


Martha Paynter is a PhD candidate at Dalhousie’s college of nursing, a registered nurse working in abortion care and the founding father of Wellness Inside.


Elizabeth McSheffrey / World Information

She mentioned for a province of its measurement, Nova Scotia gives “wonderful” look after sufferers and famous that almost all locations in Nova Scotia, aside from Cape Breton, would solely be about 90 minutes away from a spot that may present aspiration abortions.

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“Actually, the factor that’s most regarding (about having to journey) is their bills are fairly excessive, and that’s actually unfair and inappropriate,” she mentioned.

Decreasing the stigma

Paynter additionally famous that if somebody resides in an abusive family, the pandemic implies that they’re compelled to spend extra time with their abuser.

“Abuse is a gigantic motive for abortion-seeking … and we now have tons of proof that abuse towards girls, individuals with a uterus, has skyrocketed throughout this pandemic,” she mentioned.

In the case of reproductive well being, Paynter mentioned the most important precedence ought to be having fully-funded contraception. COVID-19 has resulted in many individuals dropping work, and with that, these individuals misplaced the pharmacare advantages tied to their employment.

Whereas abortion will at all times be wanted, having higher entry to contraception provides individuals extra choices to keep away from an undesirable being pregnant, she mentioned.

“You’ll be able to have an abortion each single day and it is going to be coated publicly, however your contraception won’t,” she mentioned. “And that is extraordinarily inefficient, it’s very dangerous to sufferers, and it’s a fully discriminatory coverage that discriminates towards individuals with a uterus.”


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Paynter, who additionally teaches a course about abortion care at Dalhousie’s college of nursing, mentioned if there’s one factor she needs individuals to remove, it’s that abortion is regular, abortion is frequent, and it’s time to cut back the stigma surrounding it.

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“It’s probably the most frequent reproductive health-care providers in Canada. One in three individuals with a uterus in Canada could have an abortion of their lifetimes,” she mentioned.

In her first 12 months of educating the course, each the autumn and winter semesters had been fully full, with a waitlist of about 100 individuals.

“It actually goes to indicate that individuals need to study this,” she mentioned.

“Coaching individuals, and creating that baseline of consolation and competence, is tremendous essential.”




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