Ghiz says P.E.I.'s abortion policy will not change, despite Trudeau's pro-choice stance

Teresa Wright
Published on May 9, 2014

Premier Robert Ghiz

©Guardian photo

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wants his MPs to be pro-choice on abortion, but P.E.I.’s Liberal Premier Robert Ghiz says his province will remain the only one in Canada without abortion services.

Trudeau announced Wednesday all candidates who run for the Liberal nomination for the 2015 federal election must support the party’s pro-choice stance.

“That’s his prerogative,” Ghiz said in response Thursday.

“He just wants to make sure that all future candidates do not vote in favour of making abortion services less accessible for Canadians.”

As for whether he would be willing to look at offering the service in Prince Edward Island, Ghiz said no.

“I believe the status quo is working,” he said.

“There’s some people who believe it’s not working, there’s some people who believe it’s too far. We’re going to stick with the status quo.”

P.E.I. is currently 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.

The P.E.I. government does not fund abortions performed at private clinics, like the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton. Fees at private clinics, where a doctor's referral is not needed, range from $600 to $900.

Government also does not fund travel or other incidentals associated with going out of province for this procedure.

The federal party seemingly took aim at this P.E.I. policy when it passed a resolution two years ago to financially penalize provinces that do not "ensure complete access to (abortion) services or that do not pay for women’s access to this procedure."

The president of the national party’s women’s commission at the time, Mary Pynenburg, put forward the resolution directly as a result of her concerns over P.E.I.’s lack of abortion services.

Ghiz said Thursday he believes Pynenburg simply “didn’t understand the nuances of how small Prince Edward Island is.

“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.

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

As for how he feels about the issue personally, the P.E.I. premier said he respects the country’s laws.

“So, obviously I believe that there should be abortion services, but at the same time I think that it’s important that we respect everyone’s opinion.”

He does not believe his own government’s policy to continue to send women out-of-province for abortions is out of step with Trudeau’s bolder stance on the issue.

“I think what Justin’s position was that he wants to maintain the status quo with the laws that are in place in our country, and wants Canada to be able to do that,” Ghiz said.

“Obviously I support our leader, and I think he’s doing a great job and that’s his prerogative.”

The Guardian requested a comment from Trudeau for this story, but was told he was not available Thursday.

A spokeswomen for his office, Kate Purchase, said in an email to the paper the Liberal leader “has been very clear that a woman’s right to choose is the firm position of the Liberal Party of Canada.”