Meet Our 2022 Health Heroes

An Rolanda Ryan

Rolanda Ryan

For advocating for accessible abortions

As the owner and operator of Newfoundland and Labradors only abortion clinic, Rolanda Ryan and her team are crucial to ensuring reproductive rights and bodily autonomy in the province. She opened her St. Johns clinic, Athena Health Centre, in 2010.

Her clinic provides 90 percent of the abortions in the province, and you dont need a doctors referral to access care. Athenas practitioners also run a satellite clinic once a month, alternating between central Newfoundland and Corner Brook (a seven-hour drive away on the western coast), but access in other parts of the province (including all of Labrador) is still an issue. And while provincial health insurance covers the abortion procedure itself, travel, accommodations and associated expenses are not included.

To fill the gap, Athena offers telehealth counselling appointments and mails Mifegymiso (a pill that terminates pregnancies before nine weeks) all over the province. For terminations after 15 weeks, patients must leave Newfoundland and Labrador, as hospitals in the province dont have the resources or training to provide this kind of care, Ryan explains. Ryan, who is 55, says keeping the clinic afloat during COVID shutdowns was toughabortions dropped and Athena almost closeduntil she advocated to change the provincial funding model and ensure they could keep their doors open.

In 2015 and 2016, Ryans advocacy work took her to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, and protesters were banned from congregating within 40 metres of abortion providers and patients. She is also one of two Canadian board members of the National Abortion Federation, a professional association for abortion providers south of the border, during a terrifying and turbulent time in the U.S. for reproductive rights. Ariel Brewster

Related:The True Cost of an Abortion in Canada, According to an Expert

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