P.E.I. abortion fight continues

Kevin Arsenault files application for judicial review of government decisions on abortion

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 18, 2016
A recent court order granted by P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell will mean a couple will have to be separated after 60 years of marriage in order for the wife to receive the 24-hour nursing home care she needs.

The P.E.I. government is facing another legal challenge over its position on paying for abortions.

This time, it’s from someone who thinks the government shouldn’t fund them.

On Feb. 16, Kevin Arsenault filed an application for a judicial review seeking to have a judge declare the government acted outside its authority in paying for out-of-province abortions.

RELATED: Judicial review sought on P.E.I. abortion policy

Arsenault’s application also said the province failed in its duty to withhold payments for abortions.

In his application, Arsenault repeatedly cited what he called the province’s official abortion policy, which he said was set out in a motion in the legislature in 1988 and never rescinded.

That policy, he said, opposes performing abortions unless there are grounds to believe the mother’s life is endangered.

P.E.I. is the only province that doesn’t provide abortion services. Instead, P.E.I. women have to travel off-Island with the closest access to services in Moncton.

Access to abortions at the Moncton Hospital for P.E.I. started in July 2015 and eliminated the need to get referrals from two doctors, which was the case for women who previously had to travel to Halifax.

The P.E.I. government pays for the service provided to Islanders in Moncton.

Arsenault’s application is the second legal challenge the provincial government is facing over access to abortion services.

Last month, Abortion Access Now P.E.I. advised the province it would be filing an action in P.E.I. Supreme Court to challenge the government’s abortion policy.

That group argues P.E.I.’s abortion policy violates women’s rights to equal access to healthcare services and is discriminatory.

Arsenault’s application said there is no obligation to recognize abortions as essential medical procedures or to pay for them under provincial health plans.

He argued there is a duty to withhold payment for services for people who don’t medically require them.

The provincial government hadn’t filed a response to the application as of Wednesday afternoon.