Devolution of Women’s Rights: Access to abortion services in PEI

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The Supreme Court of Canada recognized abortions as a medically necessary service in 1988. It is therefore harrowing that the last legal surgical abortion performed on Prince Edward Island was in 1982.

Recently, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) proposed a program that would allow for safe, timely, and cost-neutral pregnancy terminations in the only remaining Canadian province that does not offer this service. This proposal was stonewalled by the provincial government last May.

At the current time, the PEI government covers the medical costs of the procedure for women to have the procedure in Halifax hospitals. The out-of-province trip and accommodation, however, is not covered, rendering it difficult for lower socioeconomic class women to access this health service. Additionally, two doctor referral letters are also required. For women without family physicians, or for those with physicians that refuse to  refer, there are few options. As Dr. Sethna, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa stated, “abortion doesn’t have to be illegal in order to be inaccessible”.

Desperation is dangerous. It is well-known that when women are deprived of their reproductive rights, they can turn to illegal, unsafe means. And in fact, abortions do continue to take plan on the island. Unsafe abortions are currently one of the biggest contributors to maternal mortality world-wide.

The PEI government’s decision is at odds with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. Up until now, the government has attributed the problem to the lack of qualified physicians willing to travel to the island. The rejected NAF proposition, however, identified 3 gynaecologists that had volunteered to provide this service in-province.

Access to safe and timely abortion services is a fundamental component to women’s rights and reproductive health. Help restore women’s freedom of choice by writing to your local media outlet or contacting your elected official (Rona Ambrose – Minister of Health, Kellie Leitch – Minister for the Status of Women, Robert Ghiz– PEI Premier). Join the PEI Reproductive Rights Facebook page and follow them on Twitter. Attend Canada’s Day of Action and show your commitment to Women’s Rights.

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2 Responses to “Devolution of Women’s Rights: Access to abortion services in PEI”

  1. pundhirrefai2 Says:

    Reproductive health is a birth right of every individual. Governments and individuals in power responsible for the health care reform must recognize that unwanted conception can lead to perilous outcomes. It is the health leaders’ responsibility to ensure that safe preventive and therapeutic measures are available to these women to address these issues in an appropriate manner, time and setting.

  2. marettelee Says:

    I notice from your map above that Nunavut also has no abortion services. This territory is extremely remote and has a large First Nations population. The population is small and many have to travel for specialized medical services of various types. Although some funding may be available, citizens living in Nunavut face having to spend several days away from home, away from their families and communities, to travel hundreds of miles. In addition, they would potentially have to deal with many cultural differences, adding another layer of barriers to receiving equal access to care. This applies to many services (e.g. cervical cancer screening with Pap smears), not just abortion services.

    Although Nunavut is also in Canada, these two regions highlight various categories of barriers to care for people living in smaller and/or remote communities. PEI is certainly not remote, but it is a smaller population base which seems to have more political barriers in addition to geographic barriers. However, it seems that if the political barriers were removed, geography would no longer be an issue and services would be available locally!

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