On March 31st, the Premier of Prince Edward Island declared that the province is moving to provide abortion services on the Island. This is a historical decision given that the last time PEI women were able to get abortions on the island was in 1982! As of today, Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada that does not provide in-province abortion services. Premier Wade MacLauchlan declared that his government took the decision to provide abortion services on the Island because it was under the pressure of a pending legal challenge.
In January 2016, Abortion Access Now PEI, a local advocacy group launched a court case against the government of PEI on the basis that its abortion polices were discriminatory. CKUT reporter Chloe with Ann Wheatley, the co-chair of the association. In this interview she explains the current state of abortion policies on the Island. Women still have to travel out of the province at their own cost, including the $46 Confederation Bridge toll, to get an abortion at the Moncton or Halifax hospitals. While the court-case was essential to push pro-abortion policies, Ann admitted that:
“I have to say, part of me is a little resentful that it took [a court-case] to change the government’s mind but that it didn’t change its mind because it’s the right thing to do”- Ann Wheatley
A bit of history: Katrina Ackerman, a scholar that studied the anti-abortion movement in PEI in the 1970s and 1980s tells us more about the history of anti-abortion policies . While in the 1970s abortions were performed on the Island, in 1982 the Prince Edward Island Right to Life Association managed to get rid of abortion services on the Island.
Ironically, this time it is pro-choice associations that successfully mobilized to provide women adequate abortion services. For decades, PEI women have come together to denounce PEI’s anti-abortion policies through activism, research and first-hand accounts. Examples of these grassroots mobilizations can be found on the blog The Sovereign Uterus in which women affected by the system share their stories or in the video bellow.
What is this new abortion policy going to look like? So far, the Premier said that the Province will create a women’s reproductive health center by the end of 2016. It should include health services and counselling.
Beware! The Premier might have declared that the Province will move forward to provide abortion services but there are still a number of challenges facing the creation of an accessible, comprehensive and non-judgmental abortion policy. As Teresa Wright, the chief political writer for the Guardian told CKUT, there is still a huge push-back from the Pro-life lobby on the Island. To get a sense of the strong emotions some PEI activists have against abortions, here is a quote from one of them commenting on the picture above.
“Abortion activists on Prince Edward Island have hit a new low in their activism by attempting to co-opt the world’s most beloved spunky life-loving heroine Anne of Green Gables to do their dirty work in the only abortion-free Canadian province” (Pro-life Pete Baklinski)
You get the idea. And there is also the problem of doctors that might refuse to perform abortions, of the government not implementing its policies on time and excluding women groups from consultation… So while the Premier’s declaration is a positive step forward, it is by no means the end of the battle for abortion on PEI.
More, More, I want more:
- To get more information about Abortion Access Now PEI check out their website
- Great online article about the history of abortion policy on PEI here
- On the question of why the government conceded check out this article
- For the AMAZING feminist version of “Blurred Lines” at the end of this story click here