A few weeks ago, the government of Prince Edward Island announced that it planned to open a centre offering a termination of pregnancy service. PEI was the last province to not offer these services within the province. Women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy had to go to New Brunswick or to Nova Scotia. However, the province considered the service accessible because it paid the expenses for the procedures done outside the province.
Last January, an abortions rights group, Abortion Access Now, decided to take the case to court, claiming that the distance to access the service impeded its access and that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, PEI is obliged to offer it on the island. Fortunately, the government did not wait for the court’s decision to get behind this argument, great news for the women of Prince Edward Island.
What strikes me most about this news is the significant importance of the role that women’s groups played, and continue to play in many areas of the world in order to get the right to safe abortion services recognized.
Still today, in many places on the planet, it is estimated at 5 million, the number of women who, every year, find themselves in the hospital due to complications linked to unsafe abortions, and 47,000 die from them1. Just in Canada, between 1987 and 2010, can be found 45 legislative attempts to re-open the door to criminalizing abortion2.
In Québec, this issue may seem to be settled, because the services remain accessible to all women who need them. But we can by no means let our guard down on this issue. Let’s be sure that no context calls into question women’s right to life, freedom and security.
1. GUTTMACHER. Interdire l’avortement met en péril la santé des femmes, Statistics record, 2013
2. See the website of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes