P.E.I. announces it will soon provide abortion services

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Today, the Province of P.E.I. announced that it would soon provide access to abortion services in-province for the first time in almost 35 years.

With this announcement, all provinces in Canada will now provide access to safe, legal abortion services.

"We welcome the announcement," Kim Stanton, Legal Director at Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) told rabble. "We welcome the government's acknowledgement of its constitutional obligation to provide meaningful local access to reproductive health services to island women."

LEAF had provided litigation support to AANPEI with a legal challenge set to be filed April 4 against the province's abortion policies in January.

Currently, residents seeking abortions must obtain a referral from a local doctor and travel off-island to complete the procedure in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. This barrier was costly -- particularly for women who might not have been able to afford travel, time off of work or child care.

Health P.E.I. has now been directed to plan for a new women's reproductive health centre on the island that will offer a variety of reproductive services including medical and surgical abortions.

"[AAN] PEI's lawsuit had sought full and unrestricted access to on-island publicly funded abortion services for P.E.I. women," said Stanton. "It appears this has been won so we definitely want to see that it comes to fruition."

Stanton said that LEAF will continue to support AAN PEI to ensure the implementation -- which is expected by the end of the year -- does occur.

Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Paula Biggar, acknowledged those who have expressed their thoughts and convictions on this topic and expressed the importance of ensuring policy aligns with women's rights.  

"We have listened with respect to many voices and personal convictions on this topic,"  she said in a statement. "Public policy must be reassessed and revised to ensure it stands the test of time. The decision we're announcing today means that we will offer timely access to frontline services that align with women's equality rights."

From Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed his support of the announcement by posting on Twitter.

"A woman's right to choose is fundamental in Canada. We welcome today's announcement by P.E.I. Premier MacLauchlan on reproductive services."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated AANPEI and LEAF had filed the legal challenge. AANPEI gave notice of challenge that was to be filed on April 4 and LEAF provided AANPEI litigation support in its challenge.

Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble's News Intern.

Photo: flickr/Robert Couse-Baker

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