Protesters lambaste health minister over inadequate abortion access

Jim Day
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More than 100 people took part in a rall at Province House today calling for more accessible abortion. 

Health Minister Doug Currie may squirm slightly when grilled about his government’s policy on abortion, but he sure won’t budge.

Currie didn’t appear to relish standing on the noisy sidelines outside Province House Thursday as more than 100 people rallied in support of accessible abortion in P.E.I.

Just as the spirited protest got underway, the health minister fielded questions from The Guardian over the emotionally charged issue.

The government’s policy, he says, has not changed.

“As a province, we have been very clear with our position,’’ he says.

“Our position is that we will fund abortion services but obviously they are performed in Halifax.’’

One speaker after another was quick to let Currie know that they felt quite strongly that position is simply unacceptable. They called for access to safe, surgical abortions to be performed right in Prince Edward Island.

“Abortion is the only medical procedure sent away not because of lack of medical equipment or expertise or money but political ideology — an antiquated, misogynous and cowardly ideology,’’ Josie Baker of the P.E.I. Abortion Rights Network told the boisterous gathering.

“The government of P.E.I. has the responsibility to get its head out of the sand of 1987 and comply with the Canada Health Act and provide safe, timely and legal access to abortion in this province.’’

Currie refused to say whether his government’s policy concerning abortion is a moral one or a logistical one when asked to explain just why the province fails to provide access to safe, funded abortions in P.E.I. Prince Edward Island remains the only province in Canada that does not perform surgical abortions.

The health minister, despite repeated direct questions, continued to skirt offering a solid reason for the province’s policy.

Is it because the province is not able to allow legal, safe, funded surgical abortions to take place in P.E.I.?  Currie wouldn’t say. Or is it simply that the province does not want to? Currie wouldn’t say.

Rather, he leaned on a stock response.

“As I say, we currently fund abortions but they’re performed in medical facilities particularly in the Nova Scotia area,’’ he says. “Right now that is the priority that is currently in place. Basically, that’s the position of our government.’’

When Currie voiced that position to the crowd, chants of “shame, shame’’ rained down on the health minister.

One protester hollered out that the minister is in a position to change the policy.

Sorcha Beirne, president of the Fredericton Youth Feminists, accused the P.E.I. government of turning its back on the important issue of accessible abortion.

“We are all wondering why abortion services, medical procedures, our health care is treated as a privilege when it is really a necessity,’’ says Beirne.

“We are being denied access so we are being denied our right.’’

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, through a statement read at the protest, added its support to women having a right to safe, accessible abortions.

“Unfortunately, the ministry of health in P.E.I. is not providing this critical medical service or the right to choose,’’ the association states.

“This, in our view, is unconstitutional, and violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.’’

The association adds that a study of the province’s policies found that P.E.I. women are in fact encountering significant barriers to accessing abortion services, including lack of information and financial and practical barriers.

“Women and girls may not be in a position to travel to access this basic medical service, nor afford the expense of this travel,’’ according to the Association.

“The policy also leads to such negative effects as women attempting to self-induce - which creates real dangers to women’s health and safety, and women parenting children they did not want.’’


Organizations: Province House, P.E.I. Abortion Rights Network

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • Lobbying the wrong group
    May 09, 2014 - 11:28

    Why isn't this group lobbying doctors and the College of Physicians and Surgeons? Or is it 'pass the buck' from their point if view??

  • JustAGuy
    May 09, 2014 - 11:01

    I love how everyone always says: 'It's a womans choice what she does with her body' I agree wholeheartedly, the woman chose to have sex with the potential to get pregnant. There's the choice in the matter. If I choose to go gamble at the casino and lose my money, should the government bail me out? Focusing on the 'choice' AFTER the actual choice to have sex is backward thinking. And for those thinking to respond..'well what about rape victims, they didn't choose to have sex' -- check the facts, that would cover about 5% of all abortions performed. Addressing that would be a separate discussion.

  • inquiring mind
    May 09, 2014 - 10:37

    @ Jim Day or Teresa Wright --- You should send a summer or co-op journalism student over to the provincial archives and get the minutes of cabinet meetings as well as ministerial and bureaucrat correspondence pulled under Access to Information legislation for 1978-1988 to examine for references to abortion. You'd be very surprised what you would find. The 30 year hold-back has expired for everything up to 1984. I'd like to see what influence the Roman Catholic Church has had on this province's health care policies during this time period.

  • Sandy
    May 09, 2014 - 08:50

    Deaths from illegal abortions are much higher in jurisdictions where they are not legal. It is a statistic. So do not be so high minded and superior when deciding for another person what is best for "their" life. More women will die who attempt illegal abortions. It is a fact.

    • Sandra
      May 09, 2014 - 11:27

      Thanks heavens this isn't 1907 and your comment is completely irrelevant.

  • Judge and Jury
    May 09, 2014 - 06:32

    Reading through the comments, it is all too obvious that there is a real feeling of ill will towards any woman who feels that she is not in a position to continue with carrying a baby to term. In fact, the message seems to be that that woman must be a careless, ignorant, uneducated, selfish, sl*t to even get pregnant in the first place, and possibly a useless human being to not wanting to have the baby she is carrying. How bitter, nasty, and viciously these people think of other human beings who don't fit into their way of thinking. How judgmental to think that 'they' know better how someone should lead their life and what choices they should be making in their life. My suggestion is that our local government is not governing 100% within the Canadian ruling and should sort itself out so that religious, moralistic, and self serving public servants don't get to tell their electorate anything but the legal truths.

    • And What
      May 09, 2014 - 08:17

      And just what makes you think that the law is any more correct than what these protesters in PEI are trying to get . The same story in the rest of Canada would bring just as many comments as you are seeing here . The politicians don't always do what the majority want . Mostly they buckle under to the noisy few . That does not make it right .

  • observer
    May 09, 2014 - 06:17

    There were barley 40 people and many not from PEI.

    • Incorrect info
      May 09, 2014 - 22:42

      Your info is incorrect. There were well over 100 people and yes, there was a group come from Fredericton, as the Morgentaler clinic closing affects both Island and Fredericton women. Many Islanders went over for the Fredericton rally. The two provinces are uniting as women's rights are being violated under the Canada Health Act, which states accessible abortions for all Canadian women. Whether you are pro choice or pro life, it doesn't matter. The fact is the provinces are violating our laws by making abortion inaccessible for Island and New Brunswick women.

  • PEI Patient in Halifax
    May 08, 2014 - 23:31

    Enough with this abortion nonsense. PEI does have taxpayer funded abortions. These abortion-on-demand protesters aren't asking for "abortion access" which PEI already has, they're asking for new abortion options and locations. It's ridiculous. We send seniors to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for heart surgery. We send children to the IWK for life-saving treatment. We sent car accident victims to other provinces for immediate care. Wake up and smell the truth, abortion crowd: this is a small province of 135,000 people where thousands of patients rely upon our health care agreements in other provinces for publicly funded care. We haven't prioritized abortion above life-saving treatment and if we ever do, there's something seriously wrong with our system. The abortion-on-demand arguments can be debunked with 5 minutes of conversation. The problem is that the abortion-on-demand crowd made up their minds before hearing any facts, logic, or reasonable points of view. We should just stop giving them the spotlight. They're ill-informed and, frankly, annoying.

    • inquiring mind
      May 09, 2014 - 10:41

      Except that PEI used to provide abortion services in Charlottetown from 1970-1982. It was stopped not due to annual cost (which is far less than even the cost of next weekend's Royal Visit), but instead due to the religious beliefs of a premier (Jim Lee) who was supposed to be representing ALL residents, regardless of whether he personally approved of a health care service or not. And every gutless premier since that time has supported Mr. Lee's policy.

  • Anne Hemphill
    May 08, 2014 - 21:19

    Let us forget abortion and appreciate the life we have. I could have been aborted but my mother took responsibility for her actions. I thank God every day for her decision. Not only did she save my life but those of my children, grandchildren and future generations. Abortion is murder. Anne Hemphill

    • Gary McCray
      May 08, 2014 - 22:11

      You can certainly thank God for all the unfit mothers with multiple children under their care. And the young girls lives lost or ruined while attempting to give birth.

  • Representative of all Islanders?
    May 08, 2014 - 20:21

    It appears to me that the poor attendence of this event truly points in the direction of what Islanders want: an abortion free province. If we recall in previous rallys, the pro-life attendence has always been higher and more numerous than the very loud minority, who claim to speak for Island. My concern is that Island women are being misrepresented. Most of the women I talk to on a daily basis, whether at work, in school (I am a UPEI student), or in public are not thinking of the 'injustice' of having no abortions provided on the Island. This being said, when the pro-choice/pro-abortion minority make sweeping claims about the oppression of women, I treat such matters with great suspicion. Regardless of the moral nature of an abortion, if Islanders don't want abortions, we should not have abortions. This is a form of lobby-bullying and misrepresentation of the facts that I would not condone in any cause. In conclusion, on May 25th there will be a provincial pro-life march that will be campaigning against abortion services on the Island. Let the numbers speak for themselves, and let us see what Islanders truly want.

    • Yep
      May 08, 2014 - 20:47

      You summed it up pretty well. If you don't want an abortion, don't have one.

    • Gary McCray
      May 08, 2014 - 20:55

      If most of the island women wouldn't want an abortion that's fine and dandy. But they have no right to make moral decisions for the other women of the island. Let the numbers speak for themselves, and only themselves.

    • Jeanette Myers
      May 08, 2014 - 22:59

      Please post where and when this march will take place so people that care about the issue will be there. Thank you for your words and wisdom.

  • intobed
    May 08, 2014 - 18:55

    The current laws are very sexist. How about the following? If a female is pregnant, and wants an abortion and the father agrees, the abortion goes ahead. If the father wants the child and the mother doesn't, the father has to pay the mother compensation for the pregnancy and then assumes all responsibility for the child after birth. If the mother wants the child and the father doesn't, then it is the mother's full responsibility for having and raising the child. The old "it is a woman's choice" is very demeaning towards men. It take both a man and a woman to cause a pregnancy, both should be involved in the decision of a baby's future.

  • just because it's legal doesn't make it right
    May 08, 2014 - 17:59

    Condoms and birth control are so readily available, even the "morning after pill". If you're having unprotected sex, guess what??,that's where babies' come from or didn't you know? And as far as a woman's constitutional right to her body, as soon as you are pregnant, TWO bodies are you also have a constitutional right to the baby's body?Abortion is murder, you know in your heart it's true. Just because it's legal will not make you sleep better at night.

    • Gary McCray
      May 08, 2014 - 20:22

      I'll sleep quite comfortably, and I'll use my heart to supply oxygenated blood to my brain which I'll use for moral decision making. Some women aren't exactly fit to give birth, and could possibly die giving birth. What say you then? What if a 13 year old was raped and impregnated? Is she fit to raise a child? Is it better for her well being to be a mother at 13 years old, how about this child? What about a kid who's parents didn't want them from the beginning? Is it better for a child's well being to be born into these situations? Or to not be? Is a person who doesn't want a child or isn't fit to raise a child better off with or without a child?

  • Isaac Williams
    May 08, 2014 - 17:22

    I'm still waiting for the anti-abortionists to show me where Canadian law says a fetus is the same as an infant. I suspect I will be waiting a long time because there is no Canadian precedent for such a belief to be held up as law. That's all it is: a belief, and there is no room for faith based medicine in the 21st century. So, to my anti-abortion friends, sorry but you lose. Pack your bags and move on to your next moral crusade. You are a force of injustice and cause immeasurable pain and grief to countless women on PEI and across the country. You are an affront to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and have no business restricting and legislating what a woman can and can't do to her own body. Cheers!

    • Everyman
      May 08, 2014 - 18:40

      Laws do in fact change and the fact that you believe because something is a law, it is set in stone or even morally right is troubling. Without bothering to get into the countless examples, there have been many laws that were morally reprehensible and were eventually changed. I tend to think that those that are on the anti-abortion side are a force for justice. If you truly believe that repeating the phrase, "...a woman can do what she wants with her body" is some kind of trump card then answer this question. Do you think a woman should be able to smoke and drink while pregnant? And if your answer is no, as I suspect it will be, then why not? Also, not every person that sees the hypocrisy and unethical nature of abortion is a zealot. Forget what those people say because their arguments don't hold water. Countering their arguments is like shooting fish in a barrel. Tackle the real philosophical questions that abortion raises.

    • Isaac
      May 08, 2014 - 19:36

      I think women shouldn't smoke at all when pregnant and should drink responsibly, that's just common sense. However, I don't think they should be prohibited from doing either, as it isn't my business. Drugs while pregnant isn't a good choice, but it's not my choice.

    • Check your facts
      May 08, 2014 - 20:36

      When you've heard the heartbeat at 6 weeks into the pregnancy, you cannot stick with the idea that it is just a 'fetus' or a 'mass of cells' - it is a living human being and the last time I checked, it was illegal to take the life of another human being. All the posturing is just that - get YOUR facts straight and perhaps take into consideration that this is not a 'moral crusade' but rather a plea to save what is becoming a pathetic excuse for humanity. What have we become? Cheers!

    • Isaac
      May 08, 2014 - 20:51

      There's this thing called science... You should check it out sometime!

    • i have the facts
      May 09, 2014 - 06:10

      @ check ''When you've heard the heartbeat at 6 weeks into the pregnancy'' My wife is pregnant with our third child. I have heard the heartbeat monitor, but you'll never ever convince me that until the child is born it is anything but a part of her body and it is her decision alone on what to do with it. And I would support her either way.

    • To Isaac
      May 09, 2014 - 09:28

      I'm surprised you actually support the idea of a woman running the risk of permanently damaging her child by choosing to smoke or drink. But I suppose I should be since you support her right to terminate the pregnancy. I think it takes a good understanding of history to see the future and if you think that when a day comes that contraception is infallable and very cheap that we as people won't look back on abortion as a horrible practice then you're wrong. Take eugenics for example and all kinds of examples in history of backwards thinking.

  • Don't spend my tax dollars on your mistakes
    May 08, 2014 - 16:55

    I highly object to this group advocating for 'abortion on demand' and wanting it covered by health care! I don't know about you, but when I have to deal with the high price of oil, electricity, gas, taxes, internet, insurance, food, etc., I do not want my tax dollars going to a group of selfish people who think we should support their 'oops' moment. We all know that if there is a legitimate reason to terminate a pregnancy, it is done in a safe environment. I no more want my tax dollars going to abortions than to plastic surgery, tattoos, piercings or any other elective procedures. This is the one area where the PEI government is doing the right thing!

    • Gary McCray
      May 08, 2014 - 20:33

      If these 'selfish people' have their baby your taxes are definitely funding this new baby's life from the moment it's born in the hospital and every other visit there after. And tell me when a reason for wanting an abortion is not legitimate?

  • supporting the rally
    May 08, 2014 - 14:54

    The process to have an abortion on pei is rediculous. I had an abortion last year due to personal reasons. It was a very difficult time for me and having to leave Pei made it worse. First off I had to get into a doctor asap..which can be difficult as it is...had to get two doctors to write letters supporting my choice and Halifax hospital required that I have an ultra sound completed on PEI before an appointment for procedure would even be considered. Its a very stressful situation because as you know there is a limit to how many weeks along you can be to have procedure the time you see the doctors and with the wait times to get an ultrasound you could be getting very close to the max weeks, which makes the situation even more difficult! PEI needs to make this procedure more accessible now

  • Amanda
    May 08, 2014 - 14:20

    Thank you, Minister Currie. Folks, "Shame, Shame" would NOT be the words I would be calling out to the one who is taking a stand for LIFE. Thankful for the morals that our island still stands for!

    • Rick
      May 08, 2014 - 17:57

      It is not taking a stand - they still pay for abortion somewhere else, which they have done since 1987. It is amazing to me that people with Christian morals routinely forget the part where God is the one true judge and they are supposed to be kind to one another. If someone wants to commit a sin, it is not your job to make their life harder - it is your job as God's child to be empathetic and love one another.

    • Amanda
      May 09, 2014 - 10:24

      Rick, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. I do love people despite their choices because I make choices that aren't good either. This is not about loving the people...this is about murder and taking a stand against it. I know people who have chosen abortion and I am still their friends despite their choice. BUT I won't stand FOR choice and I'm proud of our government for continuing this stand.

  • Call it what it is
    May 08, 2014 - 14:05

    I applaud the lack of legalized murder on the Island, and now New Brunswick. "Choice" is merely a euphemism. This is demonstrated by the fact that when you say "choice" in a political context, everyone knows that you mean one specific stance on one specific issue, and by the fact that these protesters want the government to adopt a position contrary to the will of the majority of Islanders. We use euphemisms when calling something what it is, is uncomfortable. When we see with our own eyes what is being aborted, it becomes apparent why the pro-abortion side wants to keep the debate at the level of euphemism and rhetoric.

    • Brian
      May 08, 2014 - 17:35

      It's ironic that you're so hung up on terminology when you deliberately mis-represent the opposing view-point as "pro-abortion". I doubt anyone who is pro-choice is literally pro-abortion, that's like characterizing euthanasia supporters as "pro-death". The contention is simply that it should be a person's own choice to make, presumably in consultation with their physician or some other guidance. A strong (~70%*) majority of Canadians support safe access to abortions. PEI being quaint is cute and all, but not when it starts impacting the rights of those in society, particularly when the arguments against are often a result of mis-guided religious viewpoints. *

  • sasha
    May 08, 2014 - 13:52

    Obviously, there is consensus in this province that coat hangers, overdoses, and "car accidents" are good enough for PEI women - at least for the ones that cannot afford quick, and private, trip to Boston.

    • Hawkins
      May 08, 2014 - 15:21

      I think that is a little over the top. We are a small province and cant afford to provide every medical procedure. Frankly, anyone who is too lazy, drunk or stupid to use commonly available, reliable and easy to use methods of birth control can be put to a little bit of inconvenience....usually a trip to Moncton. If a person with a heart condition has to go to Moncton or Halifax, so can they.

    • Sandra
      May 08, 2014 - 15:48

      What a moronic comment. Read a book.

    • Frank Lee
      May 08, 2014 - 15:53

      Frankly, anyone who doesn't recognize a woman's constitutional right to her own body doesn't deserve a say on this issue.

    • You Are Wrong
      May 08, 2014 - 15:56

      sasha : you are wrong with your post . Take the responsibility for yourself . Refrain - use birth control or the word NO . God knows that getting pregnant is of your own doing unless it's rape & if it is, abortions are there for that at taxpayers expense . As the saying goes , hear the tune pay the piper . Killing unwanted children is and should not be a means to excuse your careless behavior .

    • Backwards province
      May 08, 2014 - 17:34

      Hawkins it has nothing to do with not being able to afford every medical procedure. Right now Island woman seeking abortion need to have TWO WRITTEN letters from two island doctors 'supporting' their need for an abortion. This is not 1900 a woman should not be required to get permission from a doctor (two be at that) to abort a fetus. There are no medical conditions that require permission from two doctors to go forth. The system is put into place to make abortion not easily accessible to most island women. The government was warned many years ago about this policy and it was pointed out that they were skirting around legalities and were dangerously close to crossing the legal line within the charter of rights. "Call it what is is" you are also very wrong. Stating that most people feel that a woman's right to a safe abortion is archaic is so far from the truth. The Canadian media has been reporting for weeks now about how far behind PEI is for woman's rights (clear across the country). Whether or not YOU agree with it does not matter. We have a constitution for a reason - these services are not a privilege but a right and until the government wants to step up and stop cutting social programs and provide 1. living income for a majority of islander 2. find a way to feed the 25% of children that are reported to not have food security 3. Put money into the fostering system, as it stands now (again as reported in the guardian) there is a severe shortage of homes to place children in. There you have it, we have a government that refuses to follow Canadian law, and refuses to make changes to even allow women a viable choice.

    • Hawkins
      May 08, 2014 - 17:44

      ok, first of all, I don't think I said anything re a womans legal right to an abortion. My point is that a pregnancy is not the most difficult thing to avoid and if a person is too lazy or stupid to use birth control, they can afford to be put out a little. The Pro abortion set always amaze me. They really want to use abortion as a form of birth control and they feel the public should cough up every time someone is irresponsible enough to need one. Oh and BTW, the number of times a woman needs one because of a rape is statistically insignificant so lets not go there. For the most part, we are talking about people who just dont care enough to take simple precautions and just feel the public should provide any service they want on PEI.

  • Just Observing
    May 08, 2014 - 13:51

    Has anyone else noticed how many protests are taking place lately. This government should sit up and take notice. They are NOT pleasing the people who pay their wages.