The P.E.I. government needs to review its policy of not providing abortion services in the province, says NDP Leader Mike Redmond.

Mike Redmond -Custom

P.E.I. needs to get on the right side of the abortion issue, says NDP Leader Mike Redmond. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Redmond made his comments following the news that the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton is closing this summer. About 60 to 70 Island women have abortions at the clinic every year, even though they have to pay for the procedure themselves.

P.E.I. and New Brunswick are the only two provinces which don't pay for abortions performed in clinics. Islanders looking for the province to pay for an abortion have to travel to hospital in Halifax.

Redmond said it's time for P.E.I. to change that policy, and for Health PEI to begin performing abortions on the Island.

"Provincial governments have a responsibility to protect those rights. Reproductive rights is something that this government hasn't taken seriously. So they need to review the policy, and obviously, let's get with the times for heaven's sakes," he said.

"It's a controversial issue, but you know what? Let's be on the right side of this."

Health Minister Doug Currie said the province's position on abortion hasn't changed, and isn't up for review. He said women travelling to Halifax for a hospital abortion will be able to qualify for travel assistance under a new program announced in last week's budget.

Abortion not an Opposition priority

Leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition Steven Myers said debating abortion policy isn't a priority for his party.

"I'm not 100 per cent sure on the policy of abortion on Prince Edward Island to be honest with you," said Myers.

"I`m trying to keep my head wrapped around how do we get doctors in the province, and how do we get people in to get their knee operated on in an adequate timeframe, and how do we keep from having seniors lie in a hospital for four to five months while they wait for long-term care."

Independent PC MLA Olive Crane declined to be interviewed on the topic of abortion policy.

A search of Hansard, the official written record of debate in the P.E.I. legislature, shows the word abortion has only come up in debate three times since 1996.