Women who need to travel to Halifax in order to get an abortion in the Maritimes can now call upon the assistance of a new group.
'I do wish that there had been somebody sitting next to me.' — Shannon Hardy, Maritime Abortion Support Services
Shannon Hardy started Maritime Abortion Support Services in Halifax six months ago. Hardy said learning that there were no abortion services available on Prince Edward Island, and that women there had to travel to the mainland for an abortion, in part, prompted the founding of the group.
"It's very, very frustrating as a doula and somebody who believes strongly in reproductive rights to find out that there is a place in Canada where abortions aren't even available," she said.
There are now about 20 volunteers in the group. They will provide information, go with women to their appointments, and offer transportation or a place to stay. One of the volunteers has offered to meet P.E.I. women at the ferry terminal in Caribou and take them to Halifax.
Hardy said she would have liked more support 18 years ago when she had an abortion.
"Sitting there, in a very vulnerable state, doing something that society wasn't 100 per cent on board with, yeah, I do wish that there had been somebody sitting next to me who could have held my hand, who could have taken notes, who just could have been there for me," she said.
Maritime Abortion Support Services has helped about a dozen women since it was founded, so far all from Nova Scotia.
Bronwyn Rodd of the P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization, which has been lobbying for better abortion access for Island women, said her group has only just heard about Maritime Abortion Support Services.
"We think it's great and we'd love to network with them more," said Rodd.
"Co-ordinate us perhaps driving women to the bridge or the ferry and they can pick them up on the other side."
Rodd said for years there's been an informal system offering women help and transportation off-Island so they can get an abortion. But she is hopeful having a public group will only improve access and awareness.