By Ally Harris
Sept. 24, 2014
The government needs to put women’s health ahead of politics and make the province’s abortion policy clear, says a member of Pro Choice PEI.
Isaac Williams and a group of around 50 supporters were outside Province House on Sept. 20 to press the subject.
Abortion has been a hot topic for decades, but when the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, N.B., closed at the end of July, it came to the forefront once again.
The clinic was the only private one in the Maritimes and, since abortions services are not offered in P.E.I., Island women must now travel to Nova Scotia for these services, Williams said.
“The inaction of the Ghiz government has had a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of Islanders.”
Abortions services are out of reach for many women due to the need to travel to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax, he said.
“While the associated fees are covered by the government, for many the cost of travel and accommodation, childcare and time away from work puts this out of reach. Many doctors on P.E.I. refuse to help their patients at all for fear of damaging their reputation. The combination of these factors often makes having an abortion impossible for those who need it most, and this is unacceptable. Islanders need safe, local abortion access.”
And Colleen MacQuarrie knows when that should happen.
“Now!” she shouted from the crowd at the protest.
The number of people taking advantage of the abortion services in other provinces is proof local access is needed, said MacQuarrie, a psychology professor at UPEI.
“We have seen a doubling of the women accessing the health services in Halifax. That alone ought to trigger a reconsideration of the Health PEI committee report.”
In May, a report presented to the provincial government suggested there were doctors from outside the province willing to come to P.E.I. to perform abortions. The government decided to stick to the status quo.
“Status quo is an ineffective use of healthcare resources and it jeopardizes the health and safety of Islanders,” said Williams.
MacQuarrie said it is time for change.
“For the last 28 years, Prince Edward Island women have been medical refugees, forced to flee our province in search of safe, primary health care when we need an abortion.”
Josie Baker, representing the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, said women should not be fighting for rights they should already have.
“Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, and we need government support to create broad-reaching and inclusive reproductive justice for all people in Canada. But, for another year, we are stuck battling for abortion rights. Rights that we legally won over 30 years ago.”
It’s about time P.E.I. caught up with the rest of the country, she said.
“In P.E.I., we demand improved access to abortion, contraception, and a publicly funded sexual reproductive health clinic to provide a range of services to women, men, and transgender people in this province.
“I can’t believe we still have to protest this.”