Access by Province

By Michelle Siobhan Reid

Abortion has been legally unrestricted in Canada since 1988. Under the Canada Health Act, a federal piece of legislation that mandates how health care services should be provided for Canadian citizens, abortion is defined as a medically necessary procedure. This means it should be paid for by provincial health care, regardless of which province or territory a woman resides in, or whether she receives an abortion in a clinic or a hospital. Abortion, like any other necessary medical procedure, should be equally available to all women regardless of where they live in Canada.

However, this is not the case: provinces differ in many ways in regard to abortion. For example, some provinces have very few hospitals and clinics that provide abortions, or refuse to pay for abortions that take place outside a hospital. This page will give you some information about how abortion access differs across Canada, and how your province or territory compares to others.

Some themes in abortion access across provinces:

  • Most provinces have very few or no free-standing abortion clinics.
  • The Atlantic provinces have few abortion providers, with no providers at all on PEI and limited coverage for PEI and New Brunswick women.
  • Quebec provides the greatest overall access to abortion providers and care.
  • The Territories have a limited ability to provide abortions (e.g., no providers after 14 weeks) but all have at least one hospital that performs abortions, and all pay for the costs of traveling out of territory for an abortion if necessary.
  • BC is the only province with a law providing a “bubble zone” around clinics, hospitals and physician homes. Several clinics in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec have their own court injunctions to restrict protesters.
  • In some provinces, medical abortions differ from surgical abortions in regard to cost and availability.

An overview of abortion coverage by province is provided in the table below. More information can be found by clicking the links below. This table was compiled using the most recent information available, but some statistics may have changed. Please contact the site administrator (25th@arcc-cdac.ca) if you want to suggest a correction or amendment.

Province/Territory # of Hospital Providers # of Clinics

Self-Referral?*

Gestational Limit* Other Notes
BC 26 of 90 (29%) 6

Yes

20 weeks Medications used in medical abortions not covered by provincial health care.The Access to Abortion Services Act provides a “bubble zone” around clinics, hospitals and homes of physicians to prevent harassment by anti-choice protesters. BC is the only province with this law.
Alberta 6 of 100 (6%) 2

Yes

20 weeks Medical abortions not covered by provincial health care, but available.**
Saskatchewan 4 of 68 (6%) 0

Partly

16 weeks No clinics, but province will cover cost of abortions at the two Alberta abortion clinics.Hospital providers in Saskatoon do not permit self-referral.
Manitoba 2 of 52 (4%) 2

Yes

16 weeks No providers in the north.
Ontario 33 of 194 (17%) 11

Yes

24 weeks Long wait times in some hospitals.Very little access in northern Ontario.All but one clinic located in Ottawa or the Greater Toronto Area.
Quebec 31 of 129 (24%) 36

Yes

23 weeks Women must pay some fees at private doctors’ clinics.  Abortions are covered at clinics, hospitals, and centres local de services communautaires (CLSCs).
Overall the best province for abortion access.
New Brunswick 1 of 28 (4%) 1

No

12 weeks A woman needs two doctors to approve her abortion request to get the procedure in hospital.Clinic abortions are not covered.
Nova Scotia 4 of 30 (13%) 0

No

15 weeks No medical abortions provided in Nova Scotia.
PEI 0 of 7 (0%) 0

No

15 weeks No abortion services at all.  Women must request a referral from a physician to have their hospital abortion in another province covered by provincial health care; few requests are approved and most women pay out of pocket.Clinic abortions not covered.
Newfoundland and Labrador 3 of 14 (21%) 1

Yes

15 weeks No abortion services in Labrador.Long travel to clinics for many women.
Yukon 1 of 2 (50%) 0

No

12 weeks No medical abortions.Costs are covered if a woman must travel outside the Yukon for her abortion.
Northwest Territories 2 of 3 (67%) 0

No

14 weeks Costs are covered if women must travel to another province for an abortion.
Nunavut 1 of 1 (100%) 0

Yes

12 weeks Costs are covered for the abortion as well as travel expenses to the nearest provider.

 

Source for hospital stats: (source: Jessica Shaw, Reality Check: a close look at accessing abortion in Canada, 2008)

*Self-referral means a woman may access an abortion without the referral of a physician.

**The gestational limit is the latest point in a pregnancy at which a woman can obtain an abortion in her province. Pregnancies are divided into three periods, or trimesters: the first trimester (to 12 weeks), the second trimester (to 24 weeks), and the third trimester (to the end of the pregnancy).

***There are two types of abortion procedures: surgical and medical (induced by medication, specifically the drug methotrexate – mifepristone is not available in Canada). You can learn about methotrexate abortions here, and surgical abortions here. This American site compares surgical with mifepristone abortions.

Sources: