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Health Minister John Haggie says Newfoundland and Labrador is close to announcing a plan on provincial funding for the abortion pill.

Haggie says he wants counselling services in place as part of “a comprehensive package that we would deliver across the province” before announcing a decision on Mifegymiso funding.

The two-drug combination terminates pregnancies of up to nine weeks, as an alternative to surgical methods that are currently covered by the province.

The federally approved medical abortion drug has been at least partially covered by every other Canadian province.

Medical students and practitioners have written an open letter to the premier and health department asking for universal Mifegymiso coverage, as well as supportive resources for physicians prescribing the drug.

Haggie said “it’s not going to be a long process” before announcing the government’s funding package.

“We’re very near making a decision and being able to roll out a service rather than simply make an announcement about the availability of a particular drug,” Haggie said in an interview Thursday.

He said funding “is a fairly straightforward consideration,” in that the province has a mechanism for funding any approved drug.

“My concern at the moment is simply just putting a pill, a drug, on the formulary doesn’t address the bigger issue of how women access the counselling services they need before and after, quite frankly, after they have a termination by whatever method.”

Activists say the province has a unique need for alternative abortion access.

Mifegymiso costs approximately $350, while a surgical abortion can cost as much as $1,500, not including travel costs to a clinic.

The province’s year-round abortion clinics are located in St. John’s, putting it out of financial reach for many low-income patients outside the capital.

Haggie did not say whether the province will fully or partially fund Mifegymiso.

“Ideally we would like to regard ourselves as the insurer of last resort for those people who do have insurance, but quite frankly that’s often an aspirational thing rather than a practical point,” said Haggie.

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