to sue the P.E.I. government over its refusal to provide abortions in Canada’s smallest province. “Unfortunately, it is clear to us that nothing short of a court order will prompt the government to comply with its obligations to P.E.I. residents under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Abortion Access Now spokeswoman Ann Wheatley.
Island women have been fighting for over two decades for safe, legal access to abortion.On January 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Section 251 of the Criminal Code, which stipulated that women must seek permission from hospital therapeutic abortion committees to have a medically insured abortion, was unconstitutional. Such restrictions, the court ruled, caused delays and threatened women’s health. As such, they were a violation of women’s right to life, liberty and security of the person guaranteed under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) will provide financial backing the legal fight for abortion access in P.E.I.
“We are actively fundraising for the money that we’re going to need,” announced Kim Stanton, legal director for LEAF, an organization that directs its legal resources to equality rights cases affecting women. “As a non-profit, we don’t have that $100,000 that we’ll likely need on hand, there’s no question.”
P.E.I. pays for abortions if residents travel to Halifax, but does not reimburse them for travel or other related costs.
“P.E.I. ’spolicy unlawfully discriminates on the basis of sex and pregnancy because it excludes abortion, which is a basic health care service required by women from the health care services offered in P.E.I.,” said Stanton.
There are no criminal laws restricting access to abortion in Canada. Abortions are covered by provincial and territorial health insurance plans under the Canada Health Act.All provinces and territories except P.E.I. provide abortion services. Abortions were available in P.E.I.at a private clinic owned by Henry Morgentaler but it closed in 2014.