Large anti-abortion rally held at Province House in Charlottetown

About 300 in attendance for pro-life march

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 25, 2014

Provincial, national and international groups are working together to ‘force’ government to make abortions available in Prince Edward Island, says a leader in the province’s pro-life movement.

More than 300 individuals took part in the P.E.I. March for Life from St. Dunstan’s Basilica towards Province House on Sunday.

The purpose was to voice opposition towards the possibility of the procedure ever being allowed in the province, as well as to call an end for funding of “non-medically necessary” abortions performed in other provinces.

Holly Pierlot, president of P.E.I. Right to Life, described P.E.I. as being at a crisis point in regards to abortion.

“(They’re joining) forces right now to force P.E.I. to have abortions on our soil,” she said, referring to the National Abortion Federation, P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women, UPEI professors and the provincial NDP. “They’re angry with us for our support of life, they only propose death as a solution.”

The issue has been in the forefront of the province for the past two years. P.E.I. is the only Canadian province to not offer abortion services in-province.

The service is available to Island women in Halifax and Fredericton, with costs covered if the procedure is done in hospital with a doctor’s referall. Travel costs are not covered.

Pierlot said abortion specifically is not a right provided to women under the constitution and that the province’s current status is based in politics and walks a line of compromise.

The group is asking the province to organize a committee to examine the definition of medical necessity and to change legislation so that all non-medically necessary abortions receive no funding through tax dollars.

“We are confident when the truth of abortion is examined and brought to light there will be great hope P.E.I. will continue to become more pro-life,” said Pierlot.

The group isn’t the only one making a request to government in regards to abortion services.

The National Abortion Federation is holding a press conference at Don and Marion McDougall Hall at UPEI at 11 a.m. this Wednesday to discuss its own proposal that has been made to the P.E.I. medical advisory committee.

The federation submitted a proposal to government which would see three doctors come to P.E.I. to perform abortions in existing local hospitals.

The federation said offering the procedure would incur little-to-no major changes or costs to the province, with money now going towards off-Island abortions being redirected to P.E.I.

That proposal has appeared to have stalled, as Premier Robert Ghiz told The Guardian in an interview last week that he believes the current policy is working.

Ghiz pointed to P.E.I.’s small size and that several other medical services are also provided off-Island.

Lloyd Kelly, state deputy of P.E.I. Knights of Columbus, was one of several speakers during Sunday’s rally.

Kelly spoke for the majority of the group when he said he didn’t want to see “abortion on demand” in P.E.I. or anywhere else.

“We all support the idea if we don’t start putting an end to this practice our churches, schools and especially the health system is definitely going to continue to suffer,” he said. “If the government representatives in the province continue to make these abortions so easy and continue to pay for non-medically necessary abortions, we will all lose.”

Tracadie-Hillsborough Park MLA Buck Watts and Education Minister Allan MacIsaac were the only politicians in attendance at the event.

Watts said he doesn’t feel abortion should be used as a means of birth control but also said he respected the opinions of those who think otherwise.

“We are all here because our parents years ago made a conscious decision that we should be born, that we should be part of life because we have the right to be here. We have the right to life.”

The march was a joint effort between the Right to Life Association, P.E.I. Knights of Columbus and the P.E.I. Catholic Women’s League.