By Barbara Jobber
After a summer that saw abortion wait times grow as long as six weeks in Ottawa, a founder of an abortion clinic near Ryerson is warning that if Toronto isn’t vigilant, the city could be found waiting too.
At the moment, Toronto abortion clinics boast a three to eight day wait time. But Maria Cosillo says, “Our hospitals have been going through similar issues [as Ottawa].”
While funding shortages are typically blamed for lineups in the nation’s capital, Patricia LaRue, executive director of Canadians for Choice, points the finger at hospitals. “The hospitals don’t think it’s a priority,” says LaRue.
In Ottawa, abortions are only available at two places: The Morgentaler clinic and the Civic Hospital, which LaRue says doesn’t offer abortions in August. Moreover, there is generally a 20-week cutoff for elective abortions in Canada. As the wait increases, so too does the complication of the procedure and of finding capable surgeons.
The urgency of abortions coupled with Ottawa’s lack of offered procedures has forced many women to seek health care in Toronto and Montreal.
“It’s really scandalous that women in Ottawa have to drive to Toronto,” says Sherry, a representative of the Morgentaler Clinic in Toronto, “Can you imagine a five hour trip here and back for a procedure that takes five to 10 minutes?”
In Toronto, women can get an abortion at 94 per cent of hospitals and the province will cover the cost. One free-standing clinic close to Ryerson is the Scott Clinic.
In other major cities, women must pay upwards of $350 for the procedure. This poses financial problems, as many women are often young, alone and without Ontario health coverage. The Morgentaler clinic in Ottawa is private and annually funded by the Ontario Health Ministry for 2,350 abortions, which they offer two days a week. By contrast, the annual funding Civic Hospital receives is for all procedures, used at their discretion. A.G. Klei, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care says that despite Canada’s health care system, “The hospital is still an independent corporation.”
“There is no such thing as a hospital that doesn’t have the ability to perform abortion,” says Corsillo.
“You should be able to go to any hospital and go to your gynecologist and get your informations and get your procedure. Period.”
LaRue says the hospital places eye surgery and hip replacements before abortions. Another factor is that fewer medical students are being trained to perform abortions.
The average age of abortion providers in Canada is 59.
“Women must have access to the service once they have made the tough choice,” urges LaRue.