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.’’