A small group of women marched to the premier’s office in Charlottetown this morning to mark the 25th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion and to call for abortions to be made available in P.E.I.
The group of about 10 women braved the frigid temperatures to bring balloons and cupcakes to Premier Robert Ghiz’s office in celebration of the landmark ruling.
They brought 24 cupcakes – one for each year women in Canada have had the right to access an abortion with one missing the signify the fact women in P.E.I. must still travel off-Island to access this procedure.
“Given that the premier has not made a statement on this issue except to say the status quo would be maintained here, we think that is an unacceptable state of affairs,” said Josie Baker of the P.E.I. Abortion Rights Network.
“They're putting women's health at risk.”
Ghiz was not in his office this morning to meet the group. They were told he is currently out of the province.
In his absence, the group presented a card signed by numerous supporters to one of his staffers. They then brought out cupcakes and poured juice into paper cups, inviting all staff members in the premier’s office to join them for a toast and a treat to celebrate the anniversary. Only two men on their way out of the office accepted the offer.
Ashley Fraser brought her two young girls to take part in the march, which the group called a celebration of the Supreme Court decision 25 years ago that struck down the laws that prohibited abortions in Canada.
She said she felt it was important to bring them along, as she hopes they will not have to continue to fight for the right to abortion services when they are grown.
“I’d like to see a change on P.E.I. for my daughters or any other women here,” Fraser said.
Prince Edward Island is currently the only province in Canada that does not offer any abortion services.
The provincial government does cover the cost of the procedure off-Island, but only when done in a hospital and if a woman has been referred by a doctor. The closest hospital that performs the service is the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax.
The province will not put any money toward abortions performed at private clinics, like the Mogentaler clinic in Fredericton.
Fees at private clinics, where a doctor's referral is not needed, range from $600 to $900.
The province also does not fund travel or other incidentals associated with travelling out-of-province for this procedure.
Last year, a group of young women revived the issue of the lack of abortion access in the province and staged rallies and garnered local and national media attention in their efforts.
Yet Ghiz and Health Minister Doug Currie remained firm current practices and policies regarding abortion will not change.
The Guardian will have more on this issue online later today and in tomorrow's print edition.