From choosing between the numerous options to navigating social stigma, accessing abortion care can be difficult. However, U of T clinics provide medication-induced abortion, and U of T student insurance plans cover most surgical abortions. In this article, The Varsity breaks down the options, resources for, and costs of getting an abortion as a student.
According to Planned Parenthood Toronto, there are two main types of induced abortion: medical and surgical.
In Toronto, medical abortions are available until nine to 11 weeks gestational age (GA), which measures how far along a pregnancy is. Prior to receiving an abortion, an individual must receive a counselling or education session.
The individual seeking the abortion also may need to undergo a variety of tests, including a sexually transmitted infection (STI) test, blood tests, or an ultrasound. Some clinics will complete all tests in one visit, while others tend to do certain tests at separate appointments or may refer the individual to another clinic for testing.
If one decides to continue with a medical abortion, a physician can prescribe a medication called Mifegymiso, which is the Canadian brand that sells mifepristone and misoprostol together. These medications work together to end a pregnancy. Mifepristone blocks the effect of progesterone, a hormone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and triggers relaxation in the cervix, helping push out the contents of the uterus.
24 to 48 hours after the initial ingestion of mifepristone, an individual is instructed to take follow-up misoprostol tablets. Individuals also require follow-up tests to confirm the success of the abortion. Depending on the situation, these tests may include a blood test or ultrasound one to two weeks after taking the medication, or a urine pregnancy test four weeks after taking the medication.
Surgical abortions are a viable option up to 24 weeks GA — far longer than medical abortions. Similar to medical abortions, an individual wanting to undergo a surgical abortion requires a counselling and education session, as well as multiple tests.
Depending on where the abortion takes place, an individual may be placed under general anaesthesia, a sleep-inducing drug, a local anaesthetic, painkillers, or conscious sedation. Conscious sedation is when an individual is still awake, but calmed or dazed.
Hospitals normally resort to general anaesthesia, while independent clinics opt for local anaesthetics, painkillers, and conscious sedation.
The procedure may take anywhere from two to 15 minutes and no cuts or stitches are required. The individual is not allowed to drive themself home following the procedure. Many clinics or other providers recommend a checkup two to three weeks after the procedure.
To receive an abortion procedure past 24 weeks GA, one may need to search outside of Canada. Planned Parenthood Toronto suggests that individuals who want to receive an abortion after 24 weeks GA contact The National Abortion Federation, which can often help with patient referrals and sometimes procedure costs.
Side effects of a medical abortion
Side effects of a medical abortion include heavy bleeding and cramping. As well, misoprostol can cause nausea, diarrhea, fever, chills, and headaches. Individuals will also notice their body expelling the pregnancy tissue within 24 hours after taking the misoprostol tablets.
In certain cases, individuals who get medical abortions may need more medication, blood tests, or ultrasounds, and possibly even a surgical abortion, before the process is successful.
Abortions in Canada
On September 28, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement acknowledging International Safe Abortion Day and highlighting the government’s “unwavering commitment to upholding a woman’s fundamental right to choose.”
“Here in Canada, we have had access to safe and legal abortions for almost 35 years thanks to decades of hard-fought activism. Abortion is covered under our universal health care system. But there is still more work to be done to improve accessibility, particularly in rural and remote communities,” he announced.
Student health insurance
The UTMSU and UTSU’s respective Health and Dental plans each cover up to $250 worth of oral contraceptives and contraceptive devices each policy year. SCSU members are covered for up to $300. The Plan B pill, which can prevent pregnancy the day after sex by preventing ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, is considered an oral contraceptive, and is thus covered under these plans.
Mental health supports available for students
Students considering an abortion or going through the abortion process can access support at the Sexual Education Centre. The centre offers peer-to-peer counselling and has a plethora of resources on their site. To access counselling, students can visit room 326 of the Student Commons, Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is no need to book an appointment.
Students can also seek support through Health & Wellness, which provides same-day counselling appointments for students requiring immediate support. Health and Wellness also provides counselling at various locations across the UTSG campus. More information about specific locations can be found on their website.
The UTSU Health plan covers up to $100 a visit for up to 15 visits with mental health practitioners.
University-provided abortions, contraceptives, and other reproductive care
Students can visit Health and Wellness to receive medical abortions, birth control, and other reproductive care. To book an appointment with Health and Wellness, students can call between 9:00 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
According to a statement from a U of T spokesperson, U of T clinicians can prescribe medical abortion drugs during virtual and in-person appointments. Although U of T clinics do not directly provide surgical abortion services to students, they can refer patients to outside services that provide medical and surgical abortions or share contact information for external clinics.
Students can purchase birth control or alternative contraception at the Health and Wellness office. Health and Wellness also offers intrauterine device (IUD) insertion, STI testing, and birth control counselling; however, their emergency copper IUD insertion program is currently on hold due to the pandemic. Students in need of an emergency copper IUD can contact Planned Parenthood.
Where students can get a medical or surgical abortion
A student seeking a surgical abortion should contact an abortion clinic near them to schedule an appointment. No referral is necessary to get an appointment at an abortion clinic. Both medical and surgical abortions are covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), but clinics might have administrative fees, ranging from $60 to over $300 on average, that the student will have to cover themselves.
Students enrolled in a University Health Insurance Plan might have coverage depending on their plan but will likely have to pay costs upfront and get reimbursed. Costs for a medical abortion can range from $300 to $370, with visit or administrative fees totalling upwards of $1,000. Meanwhile, surgical abortions can cost from $400–$2,300 depending on GA, the clinic where the procedure was held, and the type of procedure. Surgical abortions that take place earlier in pregnancy typically cost around $500. Services at Planned Parenthood Toronto are free to anyone living in Canada regardless of insurance status.
According to the Ontario government, full-time students originally from outside of Ontario but enrolled in an educational institution in Ontario are eligible for health insurance coverage that includes insured physician and hospital services.
There are several clinics offering abortions near the St. George campus. Women’s College Hospital on Grenville Street has a Tuesday to Thursday drop-in clinic that offers confidential sexual and reproductive health care including referrals, counselling, physical exams, and care. It offers both medical and surgical abortions, as well as a ‘no-touch’ abortion for patients who cannot go the clinic in person. A no-touch abortion is when a patient is prescribed Mifegiysmo over a virtual appointment with the prescribing physician.
The Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic is located at 302 Gerrard Street East and offers medical abortions from four to 10 weeks GA and surgical abortions for up to 24 weeks GA. Students can book an appointment on their website or by calling their phone number 416-323-0642. Their services are covered by OHIP.
The Choice In Health Clinic on 1678 Bloor Street West in Toronto is a pregnancy and abortion clinic that provides services for students experiencing an unwanted pregnancy. These services are available by appointment and are free with OHIP. Students can book an appointment online or by calling the clinic at 647-370-3203.
Students in Scarborough can seek abortion care at the Positive Experience Wellness Centre, located at 1200 Markham Road. The centre provides medical abortions for up to 10 and a half weeks, and appointments can be made by calling them at 647-347-1200 or requesting one on their website.
Students in Mississauga can access abortion care through the Mississauga Woman’s Clinic on 101 Queensway Boulevard. The clinic provides both surgical and medical abortions, and students can make an appointment by calling the clinic at 905-629-4516 or — if they are seeking a medical abortion — through their website.