Abortion conference underway at UPEI

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 8, 2014

While many people think abortions aren’t performed in P.E.I., they do still happen, says a UPEI researcher.

Alicia Lewis, who used billing data for Island doctors in her research, said people often think those illegal abortions are something that happened in the past, but that’s not the case.

“Women do to continue to be harmed by these types of abortions,” she said.

Lewis was one of the presenters Thursday morning during a session at an abortion conference at UPEI.

The conference, which the organizers called Abortion: the Unfinished Revolution, ran Thursday and continued today with more than 70 delegates from around the world gathering to discuss abortion-related issues.

While the morning sessions were underway, a group of pro-life protesters gathered near the university where they held large signs depicting graphic abortion images visible to passing motorists.


Inside and away from the protesters, Lewis presented her findings she gathered after she got billing data from Health P.E.I. from 1996 to 2013 and she showed that there were numerous illegal abortions or failed abortions with some leading to complications for the women involved.

The province’s restrictions may drive women to unsafe abortions, she said.

“Access to abortions is clearly unequal across Canada.”

Colleen MacQuarrie, who is one of the conference’s organizers, was also a presenter during the same session as Lewis and had similar things to say about illegal abortions, which she said happen in P.E.I. more often than people think.

“It’s not just something that happened with clothes hangers in the ’60s and ’70s,” she said.

MacQuarrie said women who were part of her research felt they had to jump through hoops to get access to abortions.

“Women feel that they are in the stone ages,” she said.

The situation in P.E.I. is detrimental to women’s health, MacQuarrie said as she talked about reproductive justice, which she later described as a woman’s power to decide if and when to have children, how many to have, and the resources to parent those children.

“Equality requires reproductive justice,” she said.

The conference continues Friday with sessions throughout the day and a closing address from researcher Marlene Gerber Fried, which will deal with advocacy in the U.S. and reproductive rights.



Colleen MacQuarrie is one of the organizers of an academic conference on abortion held at UPEI this week.

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel