A new group called Abortion Access Now PEI Inc. aims to lobbying for local access to safe abortions on the Island.

Abortion Access Now PEI Inc. (AANPEI) will promote and advocate for full access to surgical and medical abortion services, organizers said in a written release Tuesday. 

"Abortion Access Now PEI will continue the work of the community in addressing the barriers to access to abortion," said Ann Wheatley, the group's co-chair.

The group also wants P.E.I.'s health care system to provide and pay for diagnostic and follow-up care on-Island.

"Abortion Access Now PEI is grateful to the members of the Abortion Rights Network for the work they have done to repatriate care," said co-chair Colleen MacQuarrie. 

Colleen MacQuarrie, PEI abortion rights network

Colleen MacQuarrie will co-chair the new abortion lobby group, along with Ann Wheatley. (CBC)

"The time has come to organize a more structured approach to returning abortion care to P.E.I. through an incorporated group." 

MacQuarrie said the group plans to organize opportunities to promote discussion and public awareness of the issues surrounding abortion on P.E.I. 

Timing could be right

The lobby's timing could be good: the new federal health minister, Jane Philpott, said after her appointment she would look into Canada's "patchy" abortion services.

"Our government will examine ways to better equalize access for all Canadian women," she said in November, although no further details have been forthcoming. 

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan made a big change to P.E.I.'s abortion services shortly after his election in May. Health PEI made arrangements with Moncton Hospital to provide access to abortions without a referral from a doctor or Health PEI.

Holding government accountable

The group will be a member of the coalition of organizations working through the Abortion Rights Network.

"We are hoping this new incorporated group will be able to operate more formally to hold the government accountable for women's equality gaps and create the kind of change we desperately need in this province," said network spokesperson Josie Baker.

The group is seeking members. To join, Island residents must agree with AANPEI's goal and objectives to repatriate abortion care to PEI, and must indicate that they "accept the principles of freedom of choice, universality of access, equality, and inclusion," the group said.

Other board members include long-time women's rights activists Anne Mazer, Sandy Kowalik, and J'nan Brown.