Barriers remain to abortion access

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 1, 2016

A clinic at this  Moncton hospital was accessed by close to 70 Island women seeking access to a safe abortion  within six months of the toll-free phone line being launched.

 

Sixty-eight Island women accessed abortion services at a clinic in Moncton within six months of the toll-free phone line being launched.

This phone line allows women to book abortions at The Family Planning Clinic at the Moncton Hospital without a referral from a doctor.

Between July and December, 59 Island women had abortions at the clinic while nine received counselling or other clinic services.

Health P.E.I. was billed for an additional 49 Island women who had abortions at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax during 2015.

Colleen MacQuarrie, co-chairwoman of Abortion Access Now P.E.I. Inc., said this phone line is a good first step towards better access, but barriers still exist for Island women.

"The fact that you still need to leave the province though, is a residual barrier that's still deeply problematic, especially for women who don't have the same level of resources or supports that other women do. "

Abortion Access Now P.E.I. Inc. is the first Island incorporated group dedicated to promoting and advocating for local access to safe abortions in the province.

MacQuarrie said there are many women who have unplanned pregnancies, but it's only when they are unwanted that a need for abortion becomes a part of a woman's options.

Prince Edward Island is the only province in the country that does not provide surgical abortion services.

"Access to safe abortion is a key cornerstone in women's reproductive health care," said MacQuarrie.

Health P.E.I. and Horizon Health Network have partnered together to ensure that Island women can receive these services for free at the clinic in Moncton.

All services are billed to Health P.E.I. as they are now part of an inter-provincial billing agreement with New Brunswick.

The network said in a news release, there is no backlog of Island women wanting abortion services at the clinic.

MacQuarrie said the number of women accessing these services off-Island shows there is clearly a need for local abortion services.

However, MacQuarrie said it is likely barriers will still exist even when the services are offered on the Island.

"By no means do I ever think it will be the best it could be in terms of no barriers," said MacQuarrie. "I'm pretty sure that even when it's located say in Summerside or Charlottetown that the women in the farther reaches of the province will still need our care and attention to make sure that they are not left out of the circ