P.E.I. abortion policy legally actionable: law professor

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Approximately 300 anti-choice protesters gathered at Province House Sunday to protest abortion and to demand the Ghiz government stop funding what they call medically unnecessary abortions in off Island facilities.

A law professor from Dalhousie University says Prince Edward Island’s abortion policy violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Jocelyn Downey was in P.E.I. Wednesday to take part in a news conference held by a national abortion lobby group trying to bring abortion services to the Island.

Downey, who teaches law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says she believes Prince Edward Island’s policy of sending women out of the province for abortion services is legally actionable.

“There is quite simply no logic to the justifications offered by the government for failing to provide abortion services on-Island,” Downey said.

“The decision of the government flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically, the right not to be deprived of life, liberty and security of the person, and second, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, one of which is that law should not be arbitrary.”

The National Abortion Federation has presented a business case to the P.E.I. government with the aim to bring abortion services to P.E.I.

Federation president Vicki Saporta says the plan would be cost-neutral for the province and that three doctors are willing to travel to P.E.I to perform the procedure.

She pointed to statements recently made by P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, wherein he stated, “I believe the status quo is working.”

“It’s not working for the more than 150 women each year who need to leave the province to obtain the abortion care they need – care that would be available locally if they lived in any other province in the country,” Saporta said.

P.E.I. is the only province in Canada that does not offer any in-province abortion services.

The government does cover the cost of hospital abortions out-of-province, but private clinic abortions and all transportation costs are not covered.

The closest hospital that performs the service is the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax.

The proposal put forward by the National Abortion Federation would see abortions performed in outpatient hospital rooms in P.E.I. a few hours every two weeks.

But after a presentation to the province’s medical advisory committee, the proposal has stalled.

Health P.E.I. says it will not change current policy on abortion as it is following government’s direction to maintain the status quo.

Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, one of the physicians willing to travel to the Island to perform abortions, said it is a simple medical procedure that P.E.I. women should not have to leave the province to obtain.

“Recently, as an excuse for lack of abortion services, we’ve heard that many different services are available to Islanders through referral off-Island,” MacQuarrie said.

“This is true, but generally these services are for specialists that simply cannot function in smaller communities.”

She said the Ghiz government’s refusal to change its abortion policy is a political decision.

She argues it should be a health decision.

“I assure you, as a trained obstetrician/gynecologist, the health risks associated with pregnancy, labour and delivery and the post-partum period are far greater than those created by abortion,” MacQuarrie said.

“Mr. Ghiz, while I understand the status quo is working for you and your political aspirations, I challenge you to consider that it is not working for the women of P.E.I.”

The group is presenting a letter outlining its legal concerns over P.E.I.’s abortion policy to Ghiz and Health Minister Doug Currie.

They also have meetings scheduled with Currie and the minister responsible for the status of women in P.E.I., Valerie Docherty.

Organizations: National Abortion Federation, Dalhousie University, Canadian Charter Rights Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Nick
    May 30, 2014 - 21:15

    How much tax money will go to lawyers so they can go back and forth between issues that should be moot because of the charter?

  • Rita Joseph
    May 29, 2014 - 18:42

    In an attempt to make a case for expanded abortion 'rights' for PEI women, it's ironic that Jocelyn Downey raises a right and a principle which apply equally and inalienably to every human being including unborn children at risk of abortion. Unborn children too have a right not to be deprived of life, liberty and security, and the law protecting these smallest human beings should not be arbitrary. Rights of both patients, the mother and her unborn child, must be protected. This principle of indivisibility is a fundamental principle of modern international human rights law. All human rights are equal, inherent, inalienable, indivisible and inclusive. Human rights entitlement is not scaled according to size or seniority. Human rights belong equally to every member of the human family at every stage of life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has "recognized" that all children are entitled to "legal protection before as well as after birth". (See UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) No domestic government has any authority to deny human rights protection to anyone. Biology, embryology, fetal surgery, ultrasound technology, and examination of the human remains of an aborted child all tell us that this child, selected to be aborted, is a human being, belonging to the human family. under modern international hiuman rights law, to be eligible for human rights membership, one has only to be a human being. This is the irrevocable legal basis of all human rights.

  • sickened
    May 29, 2014 - 09:44

    So hmmmm theirs laws against murder but its ok too murder a child a life a true life from the time he or she is conceived. So it should be ok to go out and kill who ever you please . NOBODY HAS A RIGHT TO MAKE A CHOICE FOR A CHILD TOO DIE