Action Canada welcomes today’s announcement from PEI Premier Wade MacLauchlan that the province is taking steps to offer abortion services on-Island.
Thursday afternoon, the Premier said that Health PEI will be directed to “begin planning for a new women’s reproductive health centre” in a hospital setting, which will offer a range of “reproductive health services, including medical and surgical abortions.” Health PEI will be tasked with developing a business case for the development of the centre.
We are pleased to hear the announcement, which comes after years of advocacy by activists and organizations like Abortion Access Now Prince Edward Island and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). We do note that a failed pitch to bring abortion providers to the Island was proposed in 2014 by Health PEI but halted at the executive level, claiming it was not in line with current government policies.
This decision comes within days of the deadline for the province to provide a response as to whether the provincial government would dispute a legal challenge aiming to hold the Government of PEI accountable to its obligations under the Charter. Under the Canada Health Act, provincial governments have a responsibility to ensure that all people have access to essential health services, including abortion – it also happens to be their human right. International law guarantees all people the right to life, liberty, security and health, which includes access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services (including abortion services). Under this framework, governments are obligated to ensure available, accessible, acceptable and quality services.
PEI’s steps to create a women’s reproductive health centre must meet these human rights obligations. This will include clarifying the extent to which the centre will provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services that seek to meet the full range of needs in this regard – from contraception and STI testing to assisted reproduction and non-judgmental counselling and support services.
In creating a framework that best meets the sexual and reproductive health needs of individuals in PEI that is truly accessible to all Islanders, including those with diverse gender identities, it will be important for the centre to broaden its focus in order to include comprehensive support for sexual health needs beyond those solely related to reproduction.
In taking steps to address access to timely care, the province will have to address the reality that getting to and from Charlottetown can take hours, depending on where you are located. This will require Health PEI to take steps to expand access to both surgical and medical abortion services outside of Charlottetown. As a first step, the province could develop a strategy for the effective rollout of the gold-standard medical abortion drug Mifegymiso across the province.
We eagerly anticipate the opening of this centre and further expansion of sexual and reproductive health services in the province. We look forward to joining advocates in the continued efforts to hold the government accountable to its human rights obligations.
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ACTION CANADA FOR SEXUAL HEALTH & RIGHTS is a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally. For more information visit www.sexualhealthandrights.ca