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A Doctor Has Apologized For Turning Away A Woman With Abortion Complications

P.E.I. is the only province that doesn't offer abortion services.

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A woman who said she was denied help at a Prince Edward Island hospital after taking a drug to induce an abortion has now received an apology.

In May, the anonymous woman told The Guardian the doctor who prescribed the drug told her to go to the hospital if she experienced any complications. When things did not progress as expected, she went to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

According to The Guardian, the attending doctor consulted with a gynecologist then told her, "Neither of us feels comfortable dealing with this situation, there's nothing we can do. If you want, you can go to a clinic over in Halifax to get looked at."

Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax is a three-and-a-half hour drive from Charlottetown.

The doctor's actions were condemned by pro-choice groups, including the Prince Edward Island Reproductive Rights Organization.

Facebook: WomenPEI

"This is utterly unacceptable and creates a very dangerous – potentially life-threatening – situation for women in P.E.I.," they wrote on Facebook.

"This situation is the result of the status quo of abortion access on P.E.I., which is the refusal of government and healthcare providers to adequately protect women’s health."

The woman was able to obtain assistance from another doctor, CBC reported.

The doctor, Chris Lantz, has now written the woman an apology, CBC News reported.

P.E.I. doctor apologizes for abortion care, 'I communicated poorly' http://t.co/9OvUbYY8GF

"I did a very poor job of communication that evening. You were made to feel that you were being judged negatively for the decision you made. I then failed to provide you with the reassurance and arrange the follow-up care that you were desperately seeking," he wrote, according to CBC.

Dr. Lantz added that he had no issue with her choice to abort. "I full support your right to choose," he wrote.

This is one of many abortion access horror stories from P.E.I. — the only province in Canada that does not provide abortion services.

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Those seeking to terminate a pregnancy must travel to the hospital in Halifax, or to the Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick. P.E.I. will pay for the procedure, but not the travel costs. The only other option nearby is a private clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where no costs are covered.

In Lantz's letter, he said he hoped the woman could take comfort "in knowing that your case almost certainly contributed greatly to the biggest single change in history of women's access to abortion on P.E.I."

Indeed, the ability for P.E.I women to access the Moncton Hospital is new. Patients can also self-refer, whereas they previously needed a referral from a doctor.

Though Premier Wade MacLauchlan hailed the change as a "significant accomplishment," it still doesn't address the associated travel costs.

In 2014, a group of doctors made a proposal to bring surgical abortion services to the island, but the province's health authority didn't act on the proposal.

In July, Health Canada approved an abortion drug called RU-486 that could make it easier for Islanders to access reproductive care.

Sold under the brand name "Mifegymiso," RU-486 is a combination of two drugs that induces abortion for early pregnancies. It's available in the U.S. and has been offered in France for more than 25 years.The drug is expected to become available in Canada in 2016, but it's still unknown how easy it will be for those in P.E.I. to get a prescription. A Health P.E.I. spokesperson told BuzzFeed Canada in email that the agency needed to consult with the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies to determine when and where Mifegymiso will be available.The College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. told BuzzFeed Canada that, as with other medications, doctors will need to receive standard training on Mifegymiso before prescribing it. The organization could not say, however, whether any doctor who wants the training will be able to get it, or whether the drug will be distributed solely by pharmacies or through doctors.They also could not say whether, like the woman in Charlottetown, those who experience complications after taking Mifegymiso will be able to receive care on the Island.
Charlie Neibergall / AP

Sold under the brand name "Mifegymiso," RU-486 is a combination of two drugs that induces abortion for early pregnancies. It's available in the U.S. and has been offered in France for more than 25 years.

The drug is expected to become available in Canada in 2016, but it's still unknown how easy it will be for those in P.E.I. to get a prescription.

A Health P.E.I. spokesperson told BuzzFeed Canada in email that the agency needed to consult with the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies to determine when and where Mifegymiso will be available.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. told BuzzFeed Canada that, as with other medications, doctors will need to receive standard training on Mifegymiso before prescribing it. The organization could not say, however, whether any doctor who wants the training will be able to get it, or whether the drug will be distributed solely by pharmacies or through doctors.

They also could not say whether, like the woman in Charlottetown, those who experience complications after taking Mifegymiso will be able to receive care on the Island.

Lauren Strapagiel is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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