Access Still the Issue on Anniversary of Supreme Court Decision

Charlottetown – The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women is marking the 25th anniversary of an historic day for women’s rights. On January 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion laws and decriminalized abortion for Canadian women. In what is known as the “Morgentaler decision,” the Court decided that restrictive abortion laws violated women’s constitutional right to “security of the person.”

“Decriminalizing abortion was a landmark for women’s rights,” says Diane Kays, Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women. “This historic decision has shaped a generation of women active in the work towards gender equality.”

Kays says, “Abortion is always a contentious question in Prince Edward Island, but we are proud that as an organization our Council has maintained a pro-choice stance.” She continues, “Individual Advisory Council members bring a range of experiences and opinions on reproductive justice to the table, and through the years have still collectively agreed again and again with the Supreme Court of Canada that legal, criminal barriers to abortion are barriers to women’s rights.”

The Advisory Council on the Status of Women’s Executive Director, Jane Ledwell, says, “Looking back at the 1988 Supreme Court decision, I’m struck that a primary issue with the law restricting abortion at the time was that it obstructed access to abortion services.

“This is significant for PEI women, because of course here, striking down the law that obstructed access still hasn’t resulted in timely access to abortion services, even 25 years later.”

Women on Prince Edward Island who require abortion services must receive a referral and travel to the QEII Hospital in Halifax, where the cost of the procedure (but not travel, accommodation, or other costs) is paid for by the Province. Otherwise, women must travel to the private Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton and pay for all expenses.

“It is past time for local access to abortion services,” says Ledwell. “There are no legal barriers, and have not been for 25 years. There are no policy barriers that the Province has been able to identify to us. There is no lack of medical equipment or expertise for what is a medically simple procedure.”

Concludes Kays, “We call on the provincial government to take the opportunity on the 25th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion to take action and provide local access to a service that the Supreme Court long ago confirmed as essential to women’s human rights.”

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