Health

Nova Scotia launches phone line for women considering an abortion

New phone line set up by Nova Scotia Health Authority goes into action on Monday

Shannon Hardy says the new toll-free abortion services number is “a progressive move.”   Danielle McCreadie

Starting Monday, women will finally have the option to self-refer for abortion services in Nova Scotia.

“It’s amazing,” said Shannon Hardy, a sexual wellness coach who runs Abortion Support Services Atlantic. “This is a step towards limiting the stigma that already surrounds abortion.”

Hardy’s group provides physical and emotional support to women in Halifax seeking abortions. They’re often the first contact women make when trying to find out information.

“The process of getting an abortion has definitely been shrouded in mystery, so that’s why our service was so valuable and useful because people could call us and say, ‘where do I start? How do I do this?’ That information was just not available,” said Hardy.

According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the 1-833-352-0719 toll-free information number will be staffed Monday to Friday from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. by a referral clerk or nurse.

“Our team will actually set up the diagnostic testing requirements and set up the appointments for her,” explained Kim Munroe, NSHA’s director of ambulatory care.

Nova Scotia has been the only province in the country that requires a doctor’s referral for an abortion.

Along with finding out information, the caller will be connected to a doctor to schedule a medical or surgical abortion at the QE2 Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

“We’re hoping that the wait times women were experiencing will decrease, and that women will feel more comfortable to access the information that they need and make the choice that’s right for them,” said Munroe.

Last November, the province made Mifegymiso, also known as the abortion pill, available by prescription at local pharmacies.They also waived the $350 price tag, increasing access to the drug. The decision is estimated to cost the province between $175,000 and $200,000 per year.

Mifegymiso is an alternative to a surgical abortion. It is a combination of the drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol, and can be used to terminate an early pregnancy of up to seven weeks.

Hardy said she’s not worried about the impact the new phone line might have on her group.

“We still offer that physical stuff: we can pick you up and drop you off, we still offer funding for lodging and gas and all of those practical things,” she said.