Proposal to bring abortion services to P.E.I. stonewalled by government

Teresa Wright
Published on May 24, 2014

National Abortion Federation - Canada web site.

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A proposal to bring doctors to Prince Edward Island to provide abortion services is being stonewalled by the P.E.I. government.

Dawn Fowler, Canadian director of the National Abortion Federation, says her organization has presented a business case to the Robert Ghiz government with the aim to make abortion services available to women in P.E.I.

She says the plan would be cost-neutral for the province and three doctors are willing to travel to P.E.I to perform the procedure.

“It would mean that P.E.I. women could have the care on the Island and not have to leave the province,” Fowler said.

P.E.I. is the only province in Canada that does not offer any in-province abortion services.

The provincial government does cover the cost of the procedure out-of-province, 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.

Transportation costs are not covered.

Premier Robert Ghiz has said he believes the policy is working, noting that P.E.I. is a small province that cannot afford to offer every health care service.

“I guarantee you there are other Canadians in other provinces that drive a lot further for health-care services than Islanders who need to drive to Moncton or Halifax for health-care services," Ghiz said during a recent interview on the issue.

"We are small, we are close to other jurisdictions and I think that you have to take all those factors into account."

Fowler says the procedure itself is a minor one that could easily be offered in the province with little-to-no major changes or costs.

The National Abortion Federation presented a proposal to the P.E.I. government that would see three doctors coming to P.E.I. to perform abortions in an existing local hospital, using ambulatory care rooms and existing human resources.

She also noted P.E.I. already pays for medical care for Island women who receive hospital abortions off-Island, and that money could be redirected toward local services.

After making its way up the bureaucratic food chain – including a presentation to the P.E.I. medical advisory committee – the proposal has been stalled.

Health P.E.I. CEO Dr. Richard Wedge was unavailable for an interview Friday, but a statement from his office said the current policy on abortion will not change, as per the government’s direction.

“Health P.E.I. is following government direction to maintain status quo in terms of abortion services in P.E.I.”

Fowler says it appears there is a lack of political will to make changes to the policy.

Her group wants to challenge that position.

“I think it’s important that we try and find out why they don’t want to continue to look at the business case and what would be their reason for not having a full discussion and evaluation of it,” Fowler said.

“It’s the only province in the country that you can’t receive this care. It is a common procedure, whether people want to acknowledge that or not, and it should be provided locally. Sending women off-Island for this, I think, is inexcusable.”

The federation is planning a news conference in Charlottetown next Wednesday that will include one of the physicians willing to offer abortion services in P.E.I.