“. . . It’s time for the provin­cial gov­ern­ment to fi­nally do the right thing. It must re­move the last bar­ri­ers to re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices — in­clud­ing abor­tion — on Prince Ed­ward Is­land . . .”

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE -

The pend­ing court chal­lenge was in­evitable. Now it’s time for the provin­cial gov­ern­ment to fi­nally do the right thing. It must re­move the last bar­ri­ers to re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices — in­clud­ing abor­tion — on Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

Or it can be ob­sti­nate. It can fight a los­ing bat­tle and wait for the courts to make the de­ci­sion in­stead.

A word of cau­tion to Premier Wade MacLauch­lan: Don’t waste our time and money fight­ing a court ac­tion the prov­ince can­not win. You know what to do.

The prov­ince, if it wants, can tell Is­lan­ders the ac­tion was forced upon gov­ern­ment and it had no choice but to con­cede. It’s the easy way out.

Or the gov­ern­ment can show courage and sim­ply say it’s time. The le­gal chal­lenge an­nounced Tues­day re-fo­cused at­ten­tion on this de­bate and af­ter ex­am­in­ing all sides of the is­sue, gov­ern­ment can say it will move to dis­man­tle th­ese last bar­ri­ers.

The Lib­er­als cam­paigned on eas­ing re­stric­tions dur­ing the provin­cial elec­tion last spring. They fol­lowed through on those prom­ises in June — end­ing the need for ap­proval by two doc­tors, ul­tra­sound tests and blood work. A woman needs only to set up an ap­point­ment in Monc­ton and show up for the pro­ce­dure.

The Guardian has long sup­ported the right for Is­land women to ac­cess full re­pro­duc­tive ser­vices in their own prov­ince and ap­plauded th­ese moves by gov­ern­ment.

Ob­sta­cles re­main. And there is still the stigma of hav­ing to leave the prov­ince when the pro­ce­dure can be done here with­out any staffing changes re­quired or new equip­ment costs. It’s not equal ac­cess and it is dis­crim­i­na­tory.

Health P.E.I. came so close some two years ago with a pi­lot project. A monthly abor­tion clinic in­volv­ing a N.S. doc­tor offering free ser­vices was about to launch when the prov­ince stepped in to kill the plan.

The court chal­lenge isn’t if abor­tion is right or wrong. The courts will not rule on the great moral de­bate — if abor­tion is end­ing an in­no­cent life. It’s a mat­ter of dis­crim­i­na­tion against Is­land women who face bar­ri­ers to re­pro­duc­tive health care ser­vices avail­able to women in ev­ery other prov­ince. On this char­ter is­sue, the courts will rule in favour of the law­suit. It’s a lost cause for the prov­ince. The chal­lenge cor­rectly fol­lows the path to vic­tory.

Pro-life groups proudly trum­pet that P.E.I. is the last “life sanc­tu­ary” in North Amer­ica. Those procla­ma­tions placed the prov­ince in the crosshairs of pro-choice and women’s rights groups who view P.E.I. as a quaint, back­wa­ter cling­ing to an­ti­quated leg­is­la­tion. They see ghosts of a dark past in­volv­ing coat hangers, back al­leys and botched abor­tions that threat­ened the life and health of des­per­ate women.

This week, the prov­ince was the fo­cus of crit­i­cal na­tional at­ten­tion be­cause of its out­dated abor­tion poli­cies.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau says it’s im­por­tant that ev­ery Cana­dian across this coun­try has ac­cess to full re­pro­duc­tive ser­vices, in ev­ery prov­ince in the coun­try. It’s a pow­er­ful mes­sage for this prov­ince.

There doesn’t seem to be much stom­ach to fight this court case by the prov­ince.

The premier has con­ceded the is­sue is po­lit­i­cal. Just the threat of le­gal ac­tion should de­cide the mat­ter.

Un­til last June, abor­tion had never been raised dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod in the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture. Politi­cians still be­lieved that P.E.I. is a so­cially con­ser­va­tive prov­ince.

They un­der­es­ti­mate Is­lan­ders. We have en­dorsed Syr­ian im­mi­grants when oth­ers hes­i­tated. We elected the first eth­nic premier in Canada in Joe Ghiz. We elected the first fe­male premier in Canada in Cather­ine Call­beck. We elected an openly gay premier last year.

In many ways we are a pro­gres­sive prov­ince. The gov­ern­ment can be as­sured that a ma­jor­ity of Is­lan­ders don’t care if — or in­deed sup­port — abor­tions be­ing per­formed in Is­land hos­pi­tals.

It’s the right thing to do. Af­ter all, it is 2016.

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