TORONTO, September 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The news that most provinces won’t be paying for the abortion drug Mifegymiso when it becomes available in Canada has sparked calls from abortion advocates for the federal Liberal government to intervene.
And the Canadian distributor of the drug, Celopharma Inc., is using the perceived need of women to access the abortion drug as leverage to lobby health authorities to waive a $72,000 fee, which it says it can’t afford and is the underlying reason why Mifegymiso will not be publicly funded.
But Johanne Brownrigg, Ottawa lobbyist for Campaign Life Coalition, says expecting the public to pay for abortion is “abominable.”
“There is no right to abortion, and there certainly is no right to a free abortion,” she told LifeSiteNews. “The idea of paying for this drug is ideological; it has nothing to do with healthcare.”
The abortion drugs’ Canadian distributor, Celopharma Inc., did not pony up the $72,000 fee for the review on cost effectiveness necessary to approve Mifegymiso for public reimbursements, the Globe reported Monday.
Without the approval of the Common Drug Review, the provinces won’t list Mifegymiso as an insurable health service. Quebec, which does its review free of charge, is the exception.
Celopharma President Paula Tenenbaum told the Globe on Tuesday that her company is “open” to reapplying for the review, but it’s signaling it wants either fee reduction or a free review.
“As a woman committed to women’s health … I hope and expect that over the next year … all provincial drug plans will cover Mifegymiso,” Tenenbaum told the Globe in an email.
The company, in its first application for the review, asked the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, which oversees the review, to consider dropping or deferring the fee, according to the Globe.
CADTH refused, saying that would contravene its guidelines, and spokesperson Brent Fraser reiterated that Tuesday to the Globe, stating that to do so would set a dangerous precedent. “There’s a risk that other manufacturers will see this as an opportunity to potentially not pay fees in future.”
Mifegymiso is expected to become available as early as November at a cost of $300.
Dawn Fowler, the Canadian director of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), told the Globe the cost would be “a huge, significant barrier” for women seeking access to abortion.
And BC’s Health Minister Terry Lake asked federal Liberal Health Minister Jane Philpott in July to intervene on the cost issue, and to ease Health Canada’s reportedly stringent regulations for administering Mifegymiso, the Globe reported.
Celopharma told the Huffington Post in July that it also would ask the federal Liberals in August to lift Health Canada’s regulations, and to increase the gestational age limit for abortions induced by the drug, which the Conservatives approved for women up to seven weeks’ pregnant.
Mifegymiso uses two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The former blocks progesterone, essentially starving the baby to death and breaking down the lining of the uterus; the latter, taken 24 to 48 hours later, induces labour to expel the dead baby.
Under Health Canada’s current regulations, doctors must complete training in Mifegymiso’s many dangerous side effects in order to prescribe the pills, and only they can order the prescription from pharmacists.
Health Canada also requires that a woman confirm her pregnancy by ultrasound before taking the drugs, take the first dose in the presence of her doctor, and have access to emergency care for 14 days afterward.
Two to 4.8 percent of women who took the abortion drugs experienced “treatment failure” — persistent bleeding, abdominal pain, failure to abort — Health Canada stated in its treatment decision. In “a small number of patients,” more serious problems such as pelvic infections and vaginal hemorrhages occurred, and in “rare cases,” fatalities.
The Globe, however, editorialized Monday that it was “appalling” and “absurd” and “the last straw” that women would have to pay for Mifegymiso, which has the “great advantage” of making abortion “available to all women in a sprawling country where clinics are often only found in urban areas.”
“Ottawa should find a way to waive the cost of the Common Drug Review and make Mifegymiso available for free as quickly as possible,” it declared.
It also asserted that Health Canada’s regulation that the abortion drugs be administered by doctors on safety grounds is “an insult to women who are perfectly able to administer the treatment themselves.”
Countered CLC’s Brownrigg: “We maintain that the risks to women are being minimized, because again, the pro-abortion side really is not interested in the woman anymore, they’re simply interested in abortion.”
“Campaign Life has worked for years to defund abortion because we hold healthcare in such high regard,” Brownrigg said. “And paying for this literally takes the lives of the unborn, threatens the health of women, and also compromises access to care for millions of Canadians.”