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B.C. student's website helps Canadians navigate abortion options

The homepage of the It's My Choice website, designed by UBC PhD student Kate Wahl. The homepage of the It's My Choice website, designed by UBC PhD student Kate Wahl.

A website developed by a student at the University of British Columbia aims to help Canadians seeking an abortion choose the right option for their circumstances.

PhD student Kate Wahl's interactive "It's My Choice" website – hosted by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada – takes everything from pain tolerance to personal values into account for those weighing pill versus procedure.

"We know that one in three Canadian women and people with uteruses will have an abortion in their lifetime," Wahl told CTV News. "It's a common experience, it's a personal decision that people make, and we hope that the tool will help people understand what they need to know as they move forward with that decision.

The website opens with a "Pregnancy Calculator" that estimates how long a user has been carrying, based on the date of their last menstrual cycle, then launches into a series of questionnaires that ultimately suggest whether a pill or procedure might be a better fit.

For example, the results might indicate an operation is the "best match," ticking 67 per cent of a user's preferences based on how many appointments will be required, how much bleeding they might experience, and other factors.

"Say it’s very important for you to have a companion with you, you would indicate that – then the tool sort of calculates which procedure best aligns with your preferences," Wahl said.

Users ultimately get a summary that they can bring to a health-care provider for a conversation about next steps.

So far, the response the tool has received has been overwhelmingly positive – with users finding it both helpful and informative. Wahl said many users were surprised to learn for the first time that the abortion pill was an easily accessible option for them.

"That’s new, so that makes sense," Wahl said, noting that the medication only became available in Canada in 2017.

"A lot of people didn’t realize that they can access the abortion pill through their family physician, from a nurse practitioner and, in Quebec, from midwives – so I think that was the biggest misconception we came across while doing this work."

The website – which Wahl developed with her UBC supervisor, Dr. Sarah Munro, as well as Dr. Melissa Brooks from Dalhousie University and a team of researchers, clinicians and patients – is available in English, French, Mandarin and Punjabi.

Going forward, the PhD student said they are planning to add additional tools, such as video explainers and a guide to having conversations with doctors while seeking an abortion.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Becca Clarkson Top Stories

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