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OPINION: Clarifying policy on abortion

Kevin J. Arsenault.
Kevin J. Arsenault. - Contributed

Provincial governments can decide whether or not to fund abortions under their province’s health plans

BY KEVIN J. ARSENAULT

GUEST OPINION

Last Friday, Dec. 7, a Guardian article stated: “When asked whether he [Kevin Arsenault] would limit abortion access in Prince Edward Island as Premier, he said the issue was a matter of federal jurisdiction.”

The following Wednesday, a Guardian editorial stated: “Kevin Arsenault...was expected to push a right-wing view on abortion but reversed himself on that issue, suggesting it's a federal matter and a done deal on P.E.I.”

This couldn't be further from the truth . . . I've reversed nothing.

There are currently no laws restricting abortion in Canada, and the federal government is the only authority that can make a law to “prohibit” or “limit” legal access to abortion. However, provincial governments can decide whether or not to fund abortions under their provincial health plans.

The P.E.I. Health Services Payment Act clearly stipulates that only “medically-required” health services are to be covered under the Provincial Health Plan. However, when Wade MacLauchlan became Premier he implemented "abortion on demand” and “self-referral,” thereby removing the requirement to obtain a doctor-referral declaring an abortion to be “medically-required.”

The 1988 Supreme Court of Canada Morgantaler ruling clarified that abortion is not a "constitutional right," nor does simply “wanting” an abortion make it “medically-required”: "The values we must accept for the purposes of this appeal are those expressed by Parliament which holds the view that the desire of a woman to be relieved of her pregnancy is not, of itself, justification for performing an abortion (p. 46).”

Women don't have abortions because it's something they've always wanted to experience; difficult circumstances convince them they have no other "choice." I want to provide them with a real choice.

As Premier of P.E.I., my abortion policy would respect the provincial law currently in force which legally binds the government to only pay for abortions that are medically-required.

Also, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it a legal obligation for provincial governments to provide help to pregnant women considering abortion due to difficult life circumstances, especially where it states:

"The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

The most practical way to provide preborn children with "special safeguards and care" is to provide their mothers with tangible assistance to confront and overcome the difficult circumstances leading them to consider abortion. Such policy supports within my overall policy would include:

A new program within the Department of Family and Human Services offering personalized, targeted supports, both monetary and non-monetary;

Additional resources for service organizations such as Birthright and the Island Pregnancy Centre;

Supports for groups such as the P.E.I. Midwives Association and The BORN Co-operative so they can provide more services to pregnant women to encourage and assist them to carry their pregnancies to term; and,

Simplified and enhanced adoption services to make it easier for women with unwanted pregnancies to find loving homes for their children when they are born.

- Kevin J. Arsenault obtained his Ph.D. in ethics from McGill University, lives in Ft. Augustus, and is one of five candidates in the current PC leadership race.

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