Abortion laws staying the same despite calls for change

Teresa Wright
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The P.E.I. government doesn’t plan to change its policy on abortion despite calls for access to abortion services in the province from a newly formed lobby group.

Prince Edward Island is the only province that does not provide any abortion services. The procedure is not done in Island hospitals and there are no private clinics that offer the service in the province.

But a new group is lobbying for this to change.

The P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization is pushing for the legislation disallowing abortion on P.E.I. to be abolished.

Spokesperson Sam Wight says the current laws are creating a disparity between those women who can afford to travel out of province for the procedure and those who can’t.

“It’s just not accessible to everyone,” Wight said in an interview.

“It’s only accessible for people who have the money and who have the stability to go and take a bunch of time and go to Halifax and get this kind of quick procedure and then have to deal with that, and that’s a lot.

“And it is really expensive,” she added.

The provincial government does cover the cost of the procedure off-Island, but only when done in a hospital and if a woman has been referred by a doctor.

Women seeking an abortion must travel to the private Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton or the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax, but the province will not put any money towards abortions performed at free-standing clinics.

Fees at private clinics, where a doctor’s referral is not needed, range from $600 to $900.

The province also does not fund travel or other incidentals associated with travelling out-of-province for the procedure.

P.E.I. Health Minister Doug Currie says he has no plans to change the current abortion policies or laws.

“Right now, I see no reason to veer off the current status,” Currie said in an interview with The Guardian.

“I see nothing changing and the status quo is in place and that’s my position on it right now.”

He said this has nothing to with the controversial nature of the issue, but more to do with costs. Adding more health services to an already cash-strapped department is not on government’s priority list.

“To me, it’s not about the political discussion, it’s more about another service. And the more services you add to the health-care system, obviously there’s going to be more cost to that.”

Currie also pointed out that P.E.I. requires patients travel to other provinces for a variety of specialized health services.

“There’s a lot of services in the province that we don’t offer … there’s lots of pressure and lots of demand and we’re 144,000 people and we just cannot provide all services to all Islanders.”

But Wight said it’s an issue of equality and the rights of women on P.E.I.

“Everyone should have the same access to health care — that’s why we have public health care,” Wight said.

“This is not accessible to everybody. There have been times in the history where it has been accessible here. So there’s no reason why it can’t be again.”

Currie said Wight’s group has not requested a meeting with him nor has it formally requested changes to the province’s abortion policies in any venue outside the media.

But he said he is open to meeting with those involved and hearing their concerns.

The P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization isplanning a rally in Charlottetown on Nov. 19 tobring awareness to the issue.

Organizations: P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization, Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Fredericton, Charlottetown

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