The provincial government announced Wednesday it is providing universal coverage for the abortion pill, Mifegymiso.

It will be available at no cost to individuals beginning Sept. 1. Mifegymiso is an alternative to surgically induced abortions and can be used for medical termination of a pregnancy up to nine weeks gestation age.

“Individuals in this province are entitled to abortion, which is a legal, medical service,” Health Minister John Haggie said in a news release. “Universally covering the cost of this alternative to surgical abortion will ensure people continue to have safe and unimpeded access to this health service.”

Mifegymiso must be prescribed by a health care professional. Individuals with a valid MCP card can receive a prescription through their physician, the regional health authorities, or the Athena Clinic in St. John’s. Those with private insurance will use this first, and then the province will cover any remaining cost. Prescriptions can be filled at pharmacies across the province.

“I believe the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, via Minister Haggie, have made a very important, financially responsible decision on behalf of the people of our province,” said Rolanda Ryan of Athena Health Centre. “By utilizing private insurance in the way it is intended to be used, as a first payer, there will be recognized cost savings in that the government will not have to pick up the full cost of the pills for those who already pay insurance premiums. Ultimately, the cost will be 100 per cent covered for all residents of the province. I applaud this decision.”

An ultrasound must be performed before Mifegymiso is prescribed in order to confirm the gestation period. Because of potential health risks and limitations with Mifegymiso, as well as follow up care required for patients who use the drug, people are encouraged to discuss with their health care provider which alternative is best for them.

“The Medical Students’ Society is thrilled with the government’s decision to provide universal coverage of Mifegymiso,” said Maggie O’Dean and Chris Vizena in a joint statement. “Removing the cost barrier to medical abortion in primary care will ensure that persons living in rural and remote communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador have more equitable access to an essential medical service. This announcement represents a true advancement of reproductive rights to which we are proud to have contributed.”