The province's move to improve access to abortion for P.E.I. women is "an important first step," the Women's Network PEI says.

The P.E.I. government announced Tuesday it has made an agreement with the Moncton Hospital to provide timely access to abortion services for Island women.

Women will no longer require a referral from a P.E.I. doctor. And they won't need a local appointment for an ultrasound or blood work — steps many women have said make the process more difficult.

"This is certainly one of the most significant movements in this particular fight I would say in the last 30 years," said Sara Roach-Lewis, the network's executive director.

"It's just a matter of making a phone call and being able to walk through the process from there."

Major announcement

 P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women executive director Jane Ledwell

Jane Ledwell, P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women executive director, says the province's move is a 'major step that wasn't possible before.' (CBC)

Roach-Lewis says she believes the government has been listening to the lobby for improved access.

While Roach-Lewis sees the announcement as a significant reduction in barriers, she says the network would ideally still like to see abortion services offered in the province. 

The P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women also calls this a major announcement, one that will make a real difference for women seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

The council says this is just a first step and would also like to see:

  • improved local aftercare for Island women following an off-Island abortion
  • also better access to medical or prescription abortions here on P.E.I.
  • local access to the same surgical abortion services Island women will now receive in Moncton.

"But I think we've taken a major step that wasn't possible before," said executive director Jane Ledwell.

No time for second sober thought

Holly Pierlot

Holly Pierlot, president of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association, says the new system will lead women to a panic, knee-jerk reaction. (CBC)

Not everyone is applauding Tuesday's announcement.

"This is going to lead to a panic, knee-jerk reaction on the part of women, especially young women who are single, when they don't have that time for that second sober thought, when they don't have time to really talk to their doctor and look at all their options," said Holly Pierlot, president of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association.

And the Ottawa-based Campaign Life Coalition also says in a statement that it "strongly opposes" the announcement.

The premier and the Liberals, "have caved under pressure from a very loud minority of abortion activists who want Islanders to pay for their abortions," said the group's president Jim Hughes in the statement.

"This decision will not go unopposed by Islanders and will only serve to more strongly mobilize opposition to abortion in Prince Edward Island."

The group is also calling on the government to reverse the decision and to ensure that there will be no further expansion of abortion access on the Island.