Last fall, Romane Angers-Laurin learned in spite of herself the limits of accessibility to abortion in the Gaspé, even though she lives in Gaspé, the largest city on the peninsula where health care is less limited than elsewhere in the region.
I had a positive pregnancy test, but I thought it was only two or three weeks, not even a month, that I was pregnantsays the 24-year-old woman.
I never stopped having my periods.
The ultrasound scheduled before her abortion reveals that she has been four months pregnant. At this stage of pregnancy, Romane no longer has the possibility of having an abortion in Gaspésie.
weeks and sixdays [de grossesse]”,”text”:”At the Gaspé planning clinic, we are able to perform the procedure for up to 12 weeks and six days [de grossesse]”}}”>At the Gaspé planning clinic, we are able to perform the procedure up to 12 weeks and six days [de grossesse]explains the deputy president and director general of the Integrated Center for Health and Social Services (CISSS) of the Gaspé, Connie Jacques.
Even though the Gaspé territory extends over more than 800 kilometers of coastline, only the Gaspé hospital has a family planning clinic. It is the only place where surgical abortion is offered, but the service is not guaranteed there until the end of the first trimester of pregnancy.
” It takes some expertise and with our small volumes [d’avortements]Gaspé is the reference center for the entire territory. »
The closest option for Romane to terminate her pregnancy was therefore to go to the hospital in Rimouski, a 9-hour round trip by car. At this point, Romane decided to go all the way to Quebec to undergo the procedure, which represents a 16-hour drive in total.
I had family there, no more supportshe explains.
Gaspé, “the end of the world”
Even Gaspé women who have the possibility of having an abortion on the peninsula often travel hundreds of kilometers to terminate their pregnancy. Those who live in the western part of the region, in Cap-Chat or Ascension-de-Patapédia for example, must drive between three and five hours to get to Gaspé.
Stéphanie (fictitious name*) knows something about it. In 2019, this resident of Carleton-sur-Mer, in Baie-des-Chaleurs, made the decision to terminate her pregnancy.
I had the choice of going to the hospital in Rimouski or Gaspé, but for me, it’s far in both casesshe says.hours by car on each side.”,”text”:”It’s about three hours by car on each side.”}}”>It’s about three hours by car on each side.
A service offered longer in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine
In the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, despite a population six times smaller than in the Gaspé, surgical abortion is guaranteed up to 15 weeks and six days of pregnancy.
Beyond this stage, women must fly to get an abortion at the Center hospitalier universitaire de Québec, a reality that applies to many other specialized health care services that are not offered in the archipelago.
When the services are not given, it is easy to obtain them in Quebec or elsewhere, I have people who go to Montreal for examinations with specialists, I have some who go to Quebecmentions the director of professional and hospital services of the CISSS of the Islands, Dr. Serge Gravel.
The price of distance
The Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine women’s group consultation table is of the opinion that not all women in the region have equal access to abortion, because they still need to have the ways to get around.
Reimbursements offered by the State for medical stays often only partly cover the real costs of a trip. In addition, they are paid several days after the trip, which still requires that women have sufficient cash from the outset to pay for expenses such as gasoline.
There is really this issue of distance to travel, travel expenses, accommodation and perhaps even leave to takelists Léa Blouin-Rodrigue, development officer at the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine Women’s Groups Table.
” Access is not the same for everyone; when you have the means to get around, it’s easier, but that’s really not the case for everyone. Distance is our biggest issue in Gaspésie and the Islands. »
The abortion pill, a still limited use
the CISSSde la Gaspésie relies on the abortion pill to improve access to abortion on the territory, and not on the establishment of the surgical service in the other Gaspé hospitals.
Medication abortion can be done at home; the method therefore makes it possible to overcome the challenges of distance. However, access to this pill is unequal on the Gaspé territory.
So, ultimately, it’s more that option that we’re currently working on to ensure that it’s firmly rooted throughout the territory.
the CISSSde la Gaspésie confirms, however, that no doctor is yet trained to offer this type of service in Baie-des-Chaleurs, a region which nevertheless accounts for 40% of the Gaspé population.
A handful of doctors who practice in the hospitals of Chandler, Gaspé, Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and Cap-aux-Meules are authorized to prescribe the abortion pill.
Over the past three years, between 45 and 65 abortions have taken place each year in Gaspésie, but only 7 to 10 of them have been performed by medication.
The College of Physicians of Quebec regulates the prescription of abortion pills more strictly than elsewhere in Canada.
The professional order obliges physicians to undergo theoretical and practical training, in addition to systematically having women who wish to terminate their pregnancy by means of medication undergo an ultrasound examination – requirements which are not, however, requested by Health Canada.
The College of Physicians of Quebec Persists in Maintaining Inappropriate Restrictions That Contribute to Limiting Access to Medical Abortion in Quebeclamented the Quebec Abortion Watch Committee in a press release published on June 6.
Have an anonymous abortion
Beyond geographic accessibility, another obstacle faces Gaspé and Madeliniennes who wish to terminate their pregnancy: obtaining the service anonymously.
The Regroupement des femmes La Sentin’Elle, located in the Magdalen Islands, is aware of this reality.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to termination of pregnancy here on the archipelago is living in a small environmentexplains development agent Jocelyne Landry.
In an island context, it is certain that, perhaps, that the difficulties are amplified, just the fact of having to think about that and perhaps to share one’s reflection, that opens the door to many fears, among others, those of confidentiality, judgment and stigmatization.
These apprehensions are also vivid in the minds of Gaspé women who wish to terminate their pregnancy.
There are women who will prefer to travel far from the Gaspé to avoid perhaps meeting someone they know, be it a neighbour, a friend or a member of their family.reports Léa Blouin-Rodrigue.
Stéphanie (fictitious name*) agrees. Even if going to Rimouski was the closest place for this resident of Carleton-sur-Mer, she preferred to take the road to Gaspé to have an abortion.
I know fewer people in Gaspé than in Rimouski, this is the criterion that tipped the balanceshe says.h30 in the morning, so I had to ask my parents to come and babysit my two children at 4am, anyway I didn’t have money to pay for a hotel room.”,”text”:”My appointment was at 8:30 in the morning, so I had to ask my parents to come and babysit my two children at 4am, anyway I didn’t have the money to pay for a hotel room.”}}’>My appointment was at 8:30 in the morning, so I had to ask my parents to come and watch my two children at 4:00 in the morning, anyway I had no money to pay for a room. ‘hotel.
But it wasn’t the three-and-a-half hour trip that she found the hardest, but lying to her parents.
I told them that I had an important business meeting in Gaspéshe explains with great dismay.
In the context, I couldn’t tell them that I was going to have an abortion.
As for Romane Angers-Laurin, she hopes that the taboos surrounding abortion will fall, and that women will no longer have to hide to use this service, because the road to take to terminate a pregnancy is already quite trying.