Access Depends on Where You Live
At Sex Sense, we frequently get calls and emails from people about abortion access in BC. An unwanted pregnancy or one that happens in circumstances where it can’t be continued is often a very stressful situation, and we are always here to help our clients navigate it in the easiest way possible.
Abortion access varies depending on where you live. For those who live in Vancouver, abortion access is good: there are four clinics in the city. Places like Victoria and Kelowna also have larger publicly listed clinics.
And fortunately, the advent of medication abortion (sometimes called a medical abortion or the “abortion pill”) and telemedicine has helped to shift the abortion access landscape so that even some very smaller rural communities may have a local provider. Accessing abortion can still be harder in these areas however, or access may be limited.
The Good News: Medication Abortion and Access
The reason that it has impacted abortion access in BC so positively is that medical abortion does not require a specialized abortion clinic but can happen through a trained healthcare provider like a doctor or nurse practitioner. They can do the necessary testing, prescribe the medication, instruct the patient on how to use it, and provide follow up to ensure the abortion is complete.
The Willow Clinic in Vancouver and another in the Interior offer medication abortion at a distance through telemedicine when there isn’t a more local option. Other clinics do a mixture of in person and virtual visits.
You can learn more about medication abortion and how it compares to aspiration abortion here.
The Bad News: Stigma and Unequal Abortion Access
Abortion providers in small communities or rural areas often fear negative repercussions for themselves and their families. This makes it hard to know who to ask or how to find an abortion provider, making access more difficult in these places.
Sex Sense can help with this. If you or someone you know has had a positive pregnancy test and wants to access abortion services, calling or emailing us is a great place to start.
Abortion providers in small communities keep a very low profile because of the unfortunately and unnecessary stigma around abortion care. This stigma may also keep other health care providers from offering abortion care, making it harder to access in many places.
Stigma is unfortunate because all it does is make a difficult situation harder. It is unnecessary because abortion is both essential healthcare and a common experience. In Canada, about one in three people who can get pregnant will have at least one abortion over the course of their reproductive lives.
Despite abortion access in BC being better than it has been in the past, there are vast stretches of the province with not enough abortion provision. This can force some people to travel sometimes great distances outside of their home community to access care. Also, some places lose local abortion access when the sole provider there retires or moves away.
The Solution: Improving Abortion Access in BC: Midwives
What else could be done to improve abortion access in BC? Many people want to know how things could be better and how they can help.
Quebec provides a great example of how things can change for the better, and quickly. Quebec until recently had the most restricted access to medication abortion. But in July 2022, Quebec’s College of Physicians made major changes to increase abortion access. These included allowing midwives to prescribe Mifegymiso, the medication used for medical abortion.
Midwives in BC could be empowered to do the same, which would be a huge step forward for access. According to BC’s Contraception and Abortion Research Team, “expanding the role of midwives in Canada to include full scope sexual and reproductive care, is an important step to facilitate equitable access to abortion services.”
If you’d like to see this happen, please write your MLA. We could use everyone’s help to ensure equitable access to abortion throughout BC.
You can find more resources related to abortion on our website here.
Please note: Sex Sense is a free, pro-choice, sex-positive, and confidential service. Our team of registered nurses, counsellors, and sex educators offer information and resources on sex, sexuality and sexual health.
This post contains general information that may not apply to everyone. It is not a substitute for professional medical diagnosis and treatment or counselling and other mental health supports. If this is a topic that impacts you, please follow up with questions about your own specific situation. We will answer you privately and provide the appropriate information resources.