VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Professionals in the field of reproductive health are seeing an increase in the number of abortions and requests for information and services related to abortions.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) — which helps women who face barriers in accessing abortion care — says it got almost four times the amount of calls in Canada in 2020 compared to the previous year.
In 2019 NAF received about 30 calls, but in 2020 it jumped to about 110. The numbers reflect a host of social issues like job insecurity, anxiety levels, potential health impacts and socioeconomic status.
Jill Doctoroff the director at NAF says many of the new callers reaching out for abortion aid are non-Canadians living in Canada, who would have otherwise gone home to access healthcare but are now staying in the country. But Doctoroff explains many of them fear if they left, they wouldn’t be able to return due to the current travel restrictions.
Doctoroff adds, the federation is seeing people with precarious immigration status or international students who are still in Canada.
Angela MacDougall with the Battered Women Society has also noticed an uptick in enquiries about abortions and points to social isolation brought on by the pandemic, as being a major factor.
“That has contributed to a number of different things as far as having some challenges in getting birth control, because that does in many instances require leaving the house. And then also perhaps seeing a physician,” MacDougall says.
Trouble accessing reproduction health resources amid pandemic
And with fewer in-person interactions since COVID-19, registered nurse Nicole Pasquino worries youth may also encounter barriers when accessing sexual health options.
“A lot of providers are doing telehealth but depending on what kind of population you are, if you’re a vulnerable, youth and you don’t have a secure internet connection to talk to your physician, how do you go about that? [Students studying at home] don’t have a counsellor’s office. Some students across the province access their birth control through clinics that are close to their school or within their schools and so they don’t have that option if they’re not at school or they’re all at school one day a week,” she explains.
In 2018, the Canadian Institute for Health Information says clinics and hospitals reported there were 85,195 induced abortions in Canada. But there’s typically a two year delay on the information, so the number of abortions conducted in 2020 won’t likely be released until 2022.
“We really need to have a lot of compassion for each other. We don’t know other people’s lives. We don’t know their stories. We don’t know want they can deal with. They’re the best judges of what they can and cannot deal with — and we need to trust that,” Doctoroff adds.