Anti-abortion groups want province to fight lawsuit

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 7, 2016

A spokeswoman for an antiabortion group in P.E.I. says she believes the P.E.I. government should fight the lawsuit filed against the province over its refusal to provide abortion services.

Holly Pierlot, president of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association, says the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code of Canada may not currently protect the rights of an unborn fetus, but she believes there is language in the charter that would allow for a new interpretation of the current laws.

“The very fact that Canada doesn’t like to call certain people human from time to time, be it women or the pre-born, in their criminal law, until such time as that is changed it doesn’t really matter. We all know full well this is a human child,” Pierlot said.

“I would like to say (the charter) can be challenged itself. It says everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law, regardless of age. I think science is pretty clear that there’s an age of a child in the womb. Just because the Criminal Code says the child has to be fully separated, that’s a different issue than what’s in the charter. So I think even that can be contested.”

On Tuesday, Abortion Access Now P.E.I., a local advocacy group that recently incorporated in the province, gave the deputy attorney general the required 90-day notice of its intent to file an action in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island against the P.E.I. government.

Kim Staton, legal director for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, a national, equality rights organization supporting the local group’s litigation, says this Supreme Court action will be a charter challenge and an administrative law challenge.

“In our view, P.E.I.’s abortion policy violates the right of Island women to equal access to health care services under the equality rights provisions of the charter,” Staton said.

But Pierlot says the province has jurisdiction under the Canada Health Act to determine what health services are publicly funded and by what means.

“The province is required to fund only medically necessary services, and abortion is rarely that. Pro-choicers call it a ‘choice,’ and the government is not required to fund merely elective procedures either.”

Campaign Life Coalition, a national anti-abortion group, also weighed in Wednesday, accusing the local abortion advocacy group of trying to thwart provincial jurisdiction by trying to use the courts to force the province to provide abortions, “purely because of their brand of morality that sees abortion as socially desirable,” said spokeswoman Alissa Golob.

“Abortion is not a disease or illness and is not a medical necessity. Therefore this lawsuit has no merit and the Prince Edward Island government has every right not to provide abortion,” Golob said.

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office of P.E.I. says government is carefully reviewing the material to be filed and “will respond accordingly in due course.”