WATCH: Free access to an abortion “pill” means the demand for surgical abortions at Vancouver Island’s only abortion clinic has dropped drastically. April Lawrence reports.
At Vancouver Island’s only abortion clinic, the procedure room is now used for inserting IUD contraceptives instead of performing surgical abortions. The clinic will continue to offer the procedure, but it will be performed at Victoria General Hospital rather than the clinic itself.
“There is no point in offering it if no one is actually taking the space so it was a natural evolution,” said Medical Director of Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic Dr. Konia Trouton.
But demand didn’t drop because the number of women seeking abortions has dropped but because of free access to an abortion pill, called Mifegymiso.
“When the government made it universally available we just saw a complete change in the demand,” said Women’s Clinic Executive Director Dawn Fowler.
In 2017 the clinic performed 859 surgical abortions with only 320 women choosing medical, or prescription pill, abortions. Then in 2018, when the pill became free in B.C., the number of surgical procedures at the clinic plummeted to 244, while 841 women opted for the prescription.
“I think it feels more personal, it can be done at home, it can be done with support people of their choosing and at their timing,” said Fowler.
Dr. Trouton went from performing surgical abortions in the clinic twice a week to twice a month so in December the clinic decided to stop altogether.
“It wasn’t a planned activity, we didn’t see it coming,” said Trouton.
But the clinic says the switch has meant serious savings for taxpayers, prescribing the pill in the clinic is about 36 per cent cheaper than performing a surgical abortion.
“You need someone trained in doing the ultrasounds but you certainly don’t need all the infrastructure that’s required for a surgical procedure,” said Fowler.
But surgical procedures are still necessary for those over nine weeks pregnant or with medical risks and Dr. Trouton still performs them at Victoria General Hospital once a week.