Jan. 4, 2012
The pro-choice group lobbying for changes to abortion access on P.E.I. is now actively exploring legal options after Premier Robert Ghiz stated recently he intends to keep the Island’s lack of abortion services at status quo.
The P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Association (PRRO) formed last November in an effort to increase access to information on abortion services and lobby for the procedure to made available in the province.
Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada that does not provide any abortion services.
Despite gaining national media attention and support from numerous women’s groups and national rights organizations, Ghiz said he does not plan to change the Island’s abortion policies.
Now, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has offered the PRRO help in exploring its legal options to continue to move the issue forward.
The association and the PRRO are now working on drafting a legal memo. PRRO spokesperson Kandace Hagen says launching a lawsuit is not a certainty yet, but all options are currently being explored.
“PRRO’s not committing to going this route, but we need to explore the legality of the government’s stance,” Hagen said.
“This is a case where the government is discriminating against women by not providing services for which they have the resources because of political reasons.”
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has already stated publicly it believes the P.E.I. government is violating the law and could be taken to court over the lack of abortion services on P.E.I.
The coalition wrote a letter to Health Minister Doug Currie in November, calling P.E.I.’s abortion policies ‘illegal.’
Joyce Arthur, executive director of ARCC, said she believes the P.E.I. government is not only open to being sued, but that it would be unsuccessful in such a court battle.
“If it actually went to court they would lose because it’s quite clear that they do have to provide these services,” she said in an interview with The Guardian Nov. 23.
Arthur cited the 1988 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous law prohibiting abortions because its restrictions infringed upon a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of person.”
She believes P.E.I.’s policy of not providing abortion at all in the province contravenes these same principles as well as certain provisions within the Canada Health Act.
Requiring women to travel off-Island, even if the procedure itself is funded, fails as an acceptable alternative because young, poor or disadvantaged women don’t have the resources to travel. These women are being discriminated against,” Arthur said.
Hagen echoed Arthur’s sentiments, saying she too believes P.E.I.’s laws are discriminatory and that her group will not give up fighting for women to have equal access to abortions.
“As an advocacy group, we will continue to apply pressure to the government for as long as it takes.”
Abortions are not done in Island hospitals and there are no private clinics that offer the service in the province. The government does pay for abortions off-Island, but only with a doctor referral and if done in a hospital. Private clinic abortions are not covered, nor are travel expenses for any abortions.