Denial of abortion clinic arbitrary, says law professor

The P.E.I. government's decision not provide abortion services on the Island "flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," says a Dalhousie University law professor.

P.E.I. only province where legal abortions are not performed

Dalhousie law professor Jocelyn Downie says P.E.I. government could face court challenge. 0:58

The P.E.I. government's decision not provide abortion services on the Island "flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," says a Dalhousie University law professor.

Jocelyn Downie was speaking at a National Abortion Federation news conference in Charlottetown Wednesday.

P.E.I. is the only province in Canada that does not provide abortions. It pays for abortion services in an off-Island hospital, but women must travel for the procedure. This week three doctors proposed setting up a twice-monthly clinic at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, but the proposal was denied.

Downie said the decision was political, arbitrary, and that the government's position is untenable.

"There is no good justification," she said.

"One of the ways to push back on a political decision is to say you don't have the authority to make a political decision that violates women's charter rights."

Premier Robert Ghiz reiterated this week that his government is happy with the status quo. 

National Abortion Federation president Vicki Saporta argued while the current situation may be working for the government, it is not working for Island women, particularly low-income women who may not be able to afford travelling to get an abortion.

About 150 women travel off-island every year for the service.

Saporta said the National Abortion Federation developed the abortion clinic proposal in collaboration with the province. "This proposal to establish a termination service in P.E.I. was initiated by the department of health," she said "and developed in collaboration with them and then submitted to the medical advisory committee." Saporta said the proposal has not moved forward and says her group wants to know why.

Downie said it is possible the government could face a Human Rights Charter challenge if it does not change its policy.

"You could take legal action," she said during the news conference.

"I hope desperately that that doesn't happen, because legal action is very expensive for everyone involved. It's very corrosive, and this really is very simple. You do have the doctors, it's cost-positive to deliver it here, and it's not working for women in P.E.I. now."

Representatives of Health Minister Doug Currie said he would not be available Wednesday to comment.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.