A showdown on the abortion debate may be imminent when two rallies are held in Charlottetown Saturday – one lobbying for abortion services on P.E.I. and one campaigning to keep abortion out of the province.
The newly formed P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization (PRRO) announced its intention to hold a rally after it exploded into local and national headlines earlier this month when it raised the issue of lack of access to abortion on P.E.I.
The group publicized their plans for a rally on Nov. 19 at Province House, hoping to gain momentum for its lobby for access to abortion services.
Then on Thursday, the Campaign Life Coalition, a pro-life organization, issued a news release stating it also plans to hold a rally on Saturday at the same time and place as the PRRO rally.
Acquinas Ryan, Campaign Life Coalition P.E.I. president, said his group wanted to make sure the pro-life message is included in the debate over whether P.E.I. politicians should change its current policy on this controversial procedure.
“We don’t want access to abortion to be available on P.E.I. and we’ll just be there to make sure we get our point across,” Ryan said in an interview.
“Why mothers would want to have their children aborted – my goodness, I don’t know.”
Ryan said he doesn’t expect a huge crowd of pro-lifers to attend, as it was a last-minute decision to hold a counter-rally to the one lobbying for abortion to be made available in the province.
But he believes attendance will not reflect his organization’s support base.
“We feel a majority of Islanders are opposed. From what we’ve heard from Islanders on this issue, we don’t think they want this on P.E.I.,” he said.
Sam Wight, one of the founding members of the P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization, says she is not daunted by the pro-life group’s plan to hold a rally fighting against her group’s cause concurrent to her own.
The PRRO has been granted a meeting with Health Minister Doug Currie to discuss its concerns and so far they’ve been getting a mainly positive response from Islanders, she said.
“We’ve received almost 100 per cent positive feedback. A lot of women coming forward with their stories, people coming and offering support, so it’s been really great.”
Wight said the purpose of the rally is mainly to educate Islanders about the current availability of reproductive rights while also lobbying for equal access to abortion services on P.E.I.
For the PRRO, this is not an abortion debate, she said.
“It’s not really a matter of pro-choice or pro-life. This is an issue that the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled is a right for Canadian women and we are just looking for the same access to a health service that every other province offers.”
Both groups say they plan to hold peaceful, non-confrontational rallies, despite the fact they will be in the same location, fighting for opposing policies.
“No, we don’t want to be confrontational. We just want to get our point of view across,” Ryan said.
“Everyone has a right to share their opinions. We hope they will be respectful and we definitely plan to be respectful,” Wight assured.
Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada that does not provide any abortion services. The procedure is not done in Island hospitals and there are no private clinics that offer the service in the province.
Currie has said he has no plans to change the current abortion policies or laws.