P.E.I. government must concede on abortion issue

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From left, Paula Biggar, minister responsible for the status of women, along with Premier Wade MacLauchlan and Health Minister Doug Currie, announce a new arrangement with the Moncton Hospital to provide access to abortion for P.E.I. women. Guardian File Photo

The pending court challenge was inevitable. Now it’s time for the provincial government to finally do the right thing. It must remove the last barriers to reproductive health services — including abortion — on Prince Edward Island.

Or it can be obstinate. It can fight a losing battle and wait for the courts to make the decision instead.

A word of caution to Premier Wade MacLauchlan: Don’t waste our time and money fighting a court action the province cannot win. You know what to do.

The province, if it wants, can tell Islanders the action was forced upon government and it had no choice but to concede. It’s the easy way out.

Or the government can show courage and simply say it’s time. The legal challenge announced Tuesday re-focused attention on this debate and after examining all sides of the issue, government can say it will move to dismantle these last barriers.

The Liberals campaigned on easing restrictions during the provincial election last spring. They followed through on those promises in June — ending the need for approval by two doctors, ultrasound tests and blood work. A woman needs only to set up an appointment in Moncton and show up for the procedure.

The Guardian has long supported the right for Island women to access full reproductive services in their own province and applauded these moves by government.

Obstacles remain. And there is still the stigma of having to leave the province when the procedure can be done here without any staffing changes required or new equipment costs. It’s not equal access and it is discriminatory.

Health P.E.I. came so close some two years ago with a pilot project. A monthly abortion clinic involving a N.S. doctor offering free services was about to launch when the province stepped in to kill the plan.

The court challenge isn’t if abortion is right or wrong. The courts will not rule on the great moral debate — if abortion is ending an innocent life. It’s a matter of discrimination against Island women who face barriers to reproductive health care services available to women in every other province. On this charter issue, the courts will rule in favour of the lawsuit. It’s a lost cause for the province. The challenge correctly follows the path to victory.

Pro-life groups proudly trumpet that P.E.I. is the last “life sanctuary” in North America. Those proclamations placed the province in the crosshairs of pro-choice and women’s rights groups who view P.E.I. as a quaint, backwater clinging to antiquated legislation. They see ghosts of a dark past involving coat hangers, back alleys and botched abortions that threatened the life and health of desperate women.

This week, the province was the focus of critical national attention because of its outdated abortion policies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s important that every Canadian across this country has access to full reproductive services, in every province in the country. It’s a powerful message for this province.

There doesn’t seem to be much stomach to fight this court case by the province.

The premier has conceded the issue is political. Just the threat of legal action should decide the matter.

Until last June, abortion had never been raised during question period in the P.E.I. legislature. Politicians still believed that P.E.I. is a socially conservative province.

They underestimate Islanders. We have endorsed Syrian immigrants when others hesitated. We elected the first ethnic premier in Canada in Joe Ghiz. We elected the first female premier in Canada in Catherine Callbeck. We elected an openly gay premier last year.

In many ways we are a progressive province. The government can be assured that a

majority of Islanders don’t care if — or indeed support — abortions being performed in Island hospitals.

 It’s the right thing to do. After all, it is 2016.

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Moncton, Canada North America Joe Ghiz

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Recent comments

  • Jimmy Buffet
    January 08, 2016 - 17:25

    If someone needs an abortion that bad I don't think a trip across the bridge is that big of a deal . It is not an emergency , take your time , plan ahead . There are people travelling there and much farther for life threatening surgeries , I think those seeking abortions should suck it up and be glad just to get looked after .

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    January 08, 2016 - 12:49

    Jesus said to protect the innocents, the ones that cannot speak for themselves. Might I point out the FAILURE of PLANNED PARENTHOOD (back alley abortions) and the corrupt practices that take place once abortions are permitted. Yes, we have thrown away our moral integrity to join the rest, how sick and wrong can that be. What a little Babylon PEI has become. While the charter challenge takes place, the real challenge is to ask the courts if abortion kills innocent life. Is there no moral person of MEANS ready to finance such a challenge or would you rather put the money in the little babies' graves, because you can't take it with you. What does the year have to do with doing the right thing?

  • Peteer Johnsson
    January 08, 2016 - 08:43

    The Guardian has long supported the right for Island women to access full reproductive services in their own province and applauded these moves by government. BUT ...

  • Realist
    January 08, 2016 - 07:52

    I have had family had to travel off island for the childrens hospital (IWK) in Halifax and to Moncton for other procedures. I want those procedures covered on the island too! They had to pay out of pocket so they should be reimbursed for those costs. I will sue!

  • Maggie
    January 08, 2016 - 00:08

    Why is anyone anywhere responsible for someone else's birth control.Why should tax payers foot the bill

  • Ralph Weiland
    January 07, 2016 - 21:26

    This isn't about right or wrong---that decision was made many years ago. It's about access to care. And in many ways, abortion isn't the only issue in "access to care". The province has a horrible access to care record with few providers, mostly over paid and a large fraction of the population who have no access to a provider except through an ER, the worst possible misuse of Emergency Room facilities. The medical profession is as much to blame as the Province.

  • John
    January 07, 2016 - 17:06

    (Reproductive rights are human rights.) What does Reproductive rights have to do with abortion? Why should others pay for need not to have a baby? Did we cause you to get pregnant? Maybe you need to use birth control unless rape .

    • Ralph Weiland
      January 07, 2016 - 21:31

      Geez John, did we cause you to have a heart attack, or a fatty liver. We didn't MAKE you eat all this Big Macs or drink all that booze. So why should we pay your medical bill. Give us a break.

  • j.morin
    January 07, 2016 - 16:39

    wow... i didnt knew that. i'm a pro choice and i think every women in this world should have the right to choose and have the right to receive any medical aid on any decision they take.

  • Eliza
    January 07, 2016 - 15:20

    O'countrere , the government cannot abandon their obligation to adhere to the law, - which nowhere says taxpayers have to provide free abortion on demand. - Look it up, and you will see. Once you see that, please print it, - . Every one is free to have an opinion on the merits of abortion, but the law is the law, and we should applaud our government for living with that.

  • Melanie
    January 07, 2016 - 14:18

    The right to choose is a legally protected right and it is incredibly insulting to the women of PEI that they have been denied it for so long. My warmest and most heartfelt wishes to the citizens behind this lawsuit and let's hope the Liberals government finally does the right thing. Reproductive rights are human rights.

    • Ronnie
      January 08, 2016 - 07:45

      Wow, once again the pro-abort side resorts to fallacy. ABORTION IS NOT A RIGHT. It is only legal in the absence of a law.

  • Hugh People
    January 07, 2016 - 13:29

    jd... When a procedure is done out of province, it is because of cost or Doctor unavailability. The only exception to this is abortion. PEI taxpayers have been spending extra money to do abortions out of province simply to make sure they don't happen in province. People should certainly look at the big picture, and I know you won't like this, but looking at the big picture involves looking at all the facts, not just listening to your gut or following your nose.

  • jd
    January 07, 2016 - 11:14

    Yes that's it. Give in and provide services here That taxpayers foot the bill for elsewhere while other Islanders cant get critical care that they need to survive. You people need to step back and look at the big picture.