P.E.I. won't change abortion policy

The P.E.I. government is brushing off demands for changes to its abortion policy. Dr. Henry Morgentaler has called for federal sanctions unless the Island begins covering abortions under medicare, but Health Minister Jamie Ballem said Wednesday that reviewing the policy is "not a high priority".

"It's a decision that previous governments have made and we have followed through," Ballem said.

The P.E.I. government will only cover abortions that are performed in hospitals, and no hospitals in the province will perform them.

That means Island women have to go to other provinces.

"Island women have to go to Halifax or Fredericton, and the provincial governments do not pay. Sometimes they don't pay the facility fee, sometimes they don't pay the doctor's fee for a therapeutic abortion, or both. All of this is in violation of the federal Health Act," Morgentaler said in an interview Wednesday.

The issue arose after Morgentaler sent an open letter to Federal Health Minister Alan Rock calling on on him to use his funding power to force P.E.I. to provide the service.

"The provinces are asking for a lot more federal money. I think the federal government is in a good position to tell the provinces: 'either you provide care to all women who need abortions in clinics or in hospitals, or you do not get the federal money," Morgentaler said.

But Ballem said no changes are planned.

"Since we haven't discussed it, we're going with the status quo. Will we be looking at it? It's not a high priority for us to review it at this time," he said.

In his letter, Morgentaler called on the federal minister to raise the issue at a federal-provincial health ministers meeting that begins Thursday.