Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada where abortion services are unavailable. Due to the costs associated with out-of-province surgeries, some women face class-based discrimination in obtaining their right to undergo the procedure.
Although the province covers the cost of the surgery itself if Islanders travel to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, P.E.I. residents may have to take time off of work or pay for childcare and travel expenses, such as a $46 toll fee into New Brunswick.
In 2014, a Nova Scotia doctor volunteered to fly to Charlottetown multiple times per month to perform the surgery, which would have saved the province $37,000 (Under the Canada Health Act, Canadian provinces cover abortion procedures as part of the nation’s universal medicare). However, the Liberal provincial government turned down the offer.
In January 2016, Abortion Access Now (AAN) PEI filed a legal challenge against the province, arguing that lack of in-province service is a violation of equal access to health care under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The province had 90 days to respond or be faced with court proceedings.
While corporate media has reported on the legal challenge, the problem of class discrimination stemming from the issue was not mentioned. This is a key issue for many P.E.I. women.
UPDATE: In response to the court challenge, P.E.I.’s government announced on March 31, 2016 it would begin providing abortion services on the island.
Alyse Kotyk, “Pro-choice advocates file legal challenge to demand access to abortion in P.E.I.”, Rabble, January 12, 2016, http://rabble.ca/news/2016/01/pro-choice-advocates-file-legal-challenge-to-demand-access-to-abortion-pei
Student researcher: Alex Johnson (University of Regina)
Faculty evaluator: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)