P.E.I. woman raising concern over ER treatment following medical abortion

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 22, 2015
Colleen MacQuarrie,  co-chairwoman of Abortion Access Now P.E.I., speaks to the media in this file photo. MacQuarrie said Thurday she was surprised and excited and incredibly relieved by Thursday's change in provincial abortion policy

A P.E.I. woman suffering complications from a medically induced abortion says she was sent home from the emergency room at the Island’s main hospital Thursday after receiving no care or information.

The woman, whose identity The Guardian has agreed to protect, was prescribed a legal abortion medication by a local doctor earlier this week, and was told by this doctor to go to the ER if she experienced any problems.

The next morning, the woman realized things were not progressing normally.

She called 811, the province’s emergency information telephone service, and explained her situation. She was told to go to the emergency room immediately.

“I got treated pretty poorly as soon as everyone realized why I was in there,” she said.

She waited for five hours in the waiting room of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. Eventually she began to suffer cramps and bleeding. She says she informed the nurses of this change in her condition, but says she was not reassessed.

When she finally saw a physician, she says all he did was look at her chart and did not perform a physical examination. She says he would not tell her anything about her condition or even the results of a urine test.

“Basically he just flat out said there was nothing that he could do but he was going to talk to the gynecologist because maybe they’d prescribe some more of that medication,” the woman said.

“He came back 10 minutes later and said, ‘Neither of us feels comfortable dealing with this situation, there’s nothing we can do. If you want, you can go to a clinic over in Halifax to get looked at.’”

She went home with no idea of the status of the fetus or of her own health.

“I had no idea what was happening inside of my body and no one would tell me,” she said.

“I’ve never been disregarded like that. You’re like a piece of trash; you’re not important because you made a decision.”

She took to social media, reaching out privately to a trusted network of female friends for help. They reacted with horror at how the woman says she was treated at the QEH. They immediately sent messages to Health Minister Doug Currie and the P.E.I. College of Physicians and Surgeons expressing their concern.

On Friday, the P.E.I. Abortion Rights Network held an emergency meeting over the matter, after which they held a press conference and released an open letter to Currie and Premier Wade MacLauchlan calling for better, more dedicated access to information for women seeking abortions and for a policy framework to be developed for women seeking medical abortions.

P.E.I. does not offer surgical abortion services and is the only province in Canada that does not offer this procedure.

“If we had access to safe abortion services in the province, this woman would have been able to access the service she needed with the kinds of supports in place to create that care,” said Colleen MacQuarrie, spokeswoman for the P.E.I. Abortion Rights Network.

MacQuarrie conducted a research study last year that concluded P.E.I.’s diminished access to abortion services have led to some risks to women's health due, in part, to some women attempting to self-abort.

She says she has heard of other women who have received similar treatment to the woman interviewed by The Guardian.

“We recognize this is a symbolic issue of what’s wrong with the system when women need serious post-abortion care or follow-up care during a medical abortion.”

Health Minister Doug Currie says he was initially highly concerned when he received messages on social media, but after following up with officials at the hospital, says he feels all proper protocols were followed.

“I was reassured that no one was denied or turned away from the emergency room (Thursday) night,” Currie said.

“I was reassured that the standard quality of care was followed and I continue to be even more motivated to work with stakeholders to continue to remove current barriers that are facing Island women that are looking to access this service.”