CHARLOTTETOWN, April 10, 2014 – “The news that the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton is closing this summer creates a serious challenge for Prince Edward Island women who require a safe, timely abortion,” says Jane Ledwell, Executive Director of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women. “It also is a challenge to Prince Edward Island legislators, Health PEI, and health-care providers who have failed to provide local access to surgical abortion services for Island women.”
Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada with no local access to simple, safe, and legal surgical abortion procedures. Women requiring help and support have had two choices. At the Termination of Pregnancy Unit at the QEII Hospital in Halifax, the costs of the procedure (but none of the costs of travel or accommodations) are paid by the Province. At the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, all costs are privately paid by the woman, although the Clinic has always committed to provide services regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, and many Island women have accessed their subsidies. Over the years, roughly half of PEI women seeking abortions have used the services of the private clinic in Fredericton. The clinic was the only private option in the Maritime provinces.
“Approximately 10% of abortions provided at the clinic were for PEI women,” says Diane Kays, Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women. “Representatives of the Fredericton clinic assert the closure is a direct result of the New Brunswick – and, we would add, Prince Edward Island — governments’ refusal to fund abortions in private clinics.”
After the closure of the Fredericton private clinic, only one option will remain for Prince Edward Island women seeking a surgical abortion: to travel to the QEII in Halifax. The process of getting a termination of pregnancy in Halifax still requires a referral from a doctor on Prince Edward Island, preparatory ultrasounds on Prince Edward Island, and, as mentioned, the Province pays for the procedure itself.
Ledwell comments, “It remains to be seen how long it will be financially tenable for the Prince Edward Island government and health-care system to block access to this medically simple and straightforward procedure.
“Blocking local access is bad policy from a moral, medical, and financial perspective, and all the more so with the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton,” she concludes “We’ve challenged PEI’s MLAs to ask questions in the Legislature about PEI’s planned response to this news and look forward to thoughtful questions and clear responses.”