Abortion issue back on the agenda

Andy Walker
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The abortion issue is back on the P.E.I. public agenda.

That issue occupied centre stage for several years in the late 1980s as opponents of abortion fought to have the therapeutic abortion committee at the Prince County Hospital abolished.

That effort succeeded in 1986. No Island hospital currently performs abortions.

Island doctors can refer women to the QE2 Health Science Centre in Halifax where abortions are performed up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The hospital requires a referral from an Island doctor and the   Province does pick up the tab.

However, women who go to the Fredericton clinic operated by Dr. Henry Morgentaler must pick up the tab (usually in the range of $600-$800)  themselves.

A referral is not needed and the clinic does abortions up to 16 weeks. 

This policy has been the norm since the mid 1980s when the Supreme Court of Canada declared abortions legal.

Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives (who have alternated terms in power since then) have been eager to change it.

Health Minister Doug Currie is continuing that tradition, telling reporters earlier this month there are no plans to change the status quo.

This afternoon, supporters and detractors of the status quo will be gathering at Province House to vie with each other for the attention of the media, public and politicians.

While the Campaign Life Coalition has long roots in the province, the group forcing the issue back on the public agenda is only weeks old – the P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization.

So far, they have garnered media attention far in excess of what might be expected for their relatively small membership. That is no surprise – this is such a hot-button issue that just the mention of the word is news.

The Reproductive Rights Organization faces a steep uphill climb.

The government will be in no hurry to act, preferring to wait and see whether the group has staying power.

There was a pro-choice movement during the debates at Prince County Hospital, but it then took a low profile and the issue essentially disappeared.

There is no question the government is hoping the same thing will happen again.

Judging by the silence of the opposition Conservatives on the issue, they may share that belief.

Both the NDP and Green Party are on record as supporting the Reproductive Rights Organization.

The government will defend its stance by pointing out there are a host of medical procedures Islanders must leave the province for.

In most cases, however, that is a function of our small size rather than an aversion of the government of the day to engage in a sure political firestorm.

As well, there are plenty of medical services offered in private clinics the provincial government doesn’t pay for.

The outcome of this political battle is far from certain.

However, don’t expect the final decision, whatever it is, to come quickly.

Organizations: Prince County Hospital, Conservatives, Island hospital QE2 Health Science Centre Reproductive Rights Organization Supreme Court of Canada Province House Campaign Life Coalition NDP and Green Party

Geographic location: P.E.I., Halifax, Iceland Fredericton

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  • jane
    November 23, 2011 - 17:03

    Please, please, please PEI stand your ground, do not allow abortion clinics on PEI. DO NOT USE ABORTION AS A METHOD OF BIRTHCONTROL.!. More education is required. Woman planning to have an abortion should be made to watch an ultrasound of their unborn child possibly that would change their mind thus save a life, A precious life. Would love to hear the stats of all women years later after they allow the birth of their second child and know if they have regrets, What if your mom thought like these women.

  • ReproRights
    November 19, 2011 - 14:33

    How supremely ignorant to say that "the issue essentially disappeared". Of course it didn't. This was so irritating I debated even expending the energy on this comment.