How COVID-19 Has Obstructed – and Helped – Abortion in Nova Scotia


The COVID-19 epidemic has had an impact on almost all aspects of health care, and access to abortion is no exception.

For Shannon Hardy, founder of the abortion support service Atlantic, COVID-19 has not created new problems, but it does highlight issues that were long before the epidemic.

“Geography, always,” she said of the biggest challenges facing someone seeking an abortion.

“People are coming to Halifax, so if you don’t have a car or don’t have a road, it’s always the biggest challenge.”

Abortion Support Services Atlantic is a volunteer-run, pro-choice group that helps people in Atlantic provinces access abortion services.

Four Nova Scotia hospitals currently perform vacuum aspiration abortions. They are located in Halifax, Bridgewater, Kentville and True, but most are done in Halifax.

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

Contributed by Shannon Hardy

Although current COVID-19 restrictions prohibit Nova Scotians from traveling outside one’s community for non-essential reasons, people are still allowed to travel for health care, including abortion.

But what if one needs to travel even further?

The current gestational limit for aspiring abortions in Nova Scotia is 15.5 weeks, so if a person misses that cut-off, they will have to leave the province to undergo an abortion.

Pre-pandemic, the most common destination was Ontario, which has a long gestational threshold, but Ontario prevented abortions outside the province during COVID-19.


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During the epidemic, Hardy said his organization assisted a patient who had missed the date of the gestational cut-off and had to travel to Vancouver in the midst of an epidemic to complete the procedure.

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The woman “had to stop at a hotel, figure out how to navigate a city she would never have” and had to miss two weeks of work when she returned to Nova Scotia because she was in self-isolation. was.

The abortion support service Atlantic had to fundraise to help pay for the costs incurred. Hardy said that this responsibility should not fall on him.

“He is pugnacious, that a group of volunteers are doing all this,” he said. “But if we didn’t, people would not have access to health care.”

When it comes to abortions in Nova Scotia, there are geographical issues – primarily affecting Cape Breton, which does not have aspiration abortion services on the island – Hardy said it is a problem in Atlantic Canada, specifically Newfoundland and In Labrador, which is only a clinic in St. John’s.

This means that people in other areas of Newfoundland may have to travel for hours to get an abortion, and those in Labrador will need to fly on St. John.

Hardy states that geography is the access to abortion in Atlantic Canada, specifically in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Contributed by Shannon Hardy

While health care in Canada should be free, people who have had abortions often have to pay in some way, such as paying for travel or taking time off work.

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Making abortions available in more places can help address some of these issues, she said, especially related to travel.

“Abortion is health care, and yet we don’t offer it everywhere,” Hardy said. “People are not required to leave their home communities, especially during an epidemic.”

Hardy would like to see stricter punishment for provinces failing to provide adequate access to abortions.

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He pointed to New Brunswick, where the federal government recently reduced the Canadian health transfer by about $ 140,000 due to the province’s refusal to fund abortions outside the hospital, but said the amount was “a drop in the bucket.” “

“It was like paying a $ 25 fine to a millionaire,” she said. “It would be one thing: for really fine provinces that actually make an impact that the amount in which health care is not offered.”


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‘Excellent regeneration’ for drug abortion

While COVID-19 has made travel for abortion an issue, the epidemic has actually helped improve abortion facilities in some ways, as a PhD candidate at Dalhousie’s nursing school and a registered working in abortion care Nurse.

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She called a toll-free line for people seeking abortions in Nova Scotia – the only one of its kind in the country – to be responded to every day and wait times for abortions are usually significantly shorter.

“We do not have a day of hindrance in access to this essential service,” she said, demanding that abortion actually go down during the epidemic.

“People are depressed, and they are having less sex.”

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Paynter said that COVID-19 has made telemedicine more common, and it is easier for patients across the country to use Mifegymiso, a pill that can be taken to terminate pregnancy.

“So, instead of making an appointment and go to see someone to get this prescription, you can have that conversation over the phone,” she said.

About one-third of abortions in Nova Scotia are now performed through mifegimiso.

“This is great, because the drug has only been on the market since 2017,” Pennanter said.

Martha Pennar is a PhD candidate at Dalhousie’s School of Nursing, a registered nurse who works in abortion care and is the founder of Wellness.

Elizabeth McShefrey / Global News

She asked for a province of her size, providing “excellent” care for Nova Scotia patients, and noted that most locations in Nova Scotia, with the exception of Cape Breton, would be only 90 minutes away from places that provide aspirational abortions can do.

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“In fact, the thing that is most (about traveling) is their expense is quite high, and it’s really unfair and unfair,” she said.

Reduce stigma

Paynter also noted that if someone is living in an abusive home, the epidemic means they are forced to spend more time with their abs.

“Abuse is a very big reason for the demand for abortion … and we have a lot of evidence that abuses against women, people with a uterus, have skyrocketed during this epidemic.”

When it comes to reproductive health, Paynter said the biggest priority should be fully funded contraception. COVID-19 has lost the jobs of many people, and with this, those people have lost their pharmacy benefits tied to their employment.

She said that abortion would always be needed, because better access to contraception would give people more options to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

“You can have an abortion every day and it will be covered in public, but you won’t have contraception,” she said. “And it’s highly inefficient, it’s very harmful to patients, and it’s a completely discriminatory policy that discriminates against people with a hysterectomy.”


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Palnter, who also teaches a course about abortion care at Dalhousie’s nursing school, said that if there’s one thing she wants people to remove, it’s that abortion is normal, abortion is common, and it’s around It is time to reduce the stigma.

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“It is one of the most common reproductive health care services in Canada. One in three people with a uterus in Canada will have an abortion during their lifetime, ”she said.

In its first year of teaching the course, both the fall and winter semesters were fully filled, with a waiting list of about 100 people.

“It really goes to show that people want to learn about this,” she said.

“Training people, and laying the foundation for comfort and competence, is super important.”

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