Premier Wade MacLauchlan said his government's decision to provide abortion services on P.E.I. was made now because of the time frame set by a pending legal challenge that sought to force the province to provide full and unrestricted access to publicly funded abortion services on the Island.

"We were under the rules requiring us to respond within 90 days, to respond by Monday. The time is now to indicate to Islanders our view on that," he said.

MacLauchlan and his government announced Thursday P.E.I. would provide access to medical and surgical abortions for the first time in almost 35 years.

Health PEI has been asked by the government to look at what resources will be needed to have a women's reproductive health centre in place by the end of 2016.

"We've decided and asked Health PEI to look at this in the context it would be in a hospital setting," MacLauchlan told Island Morning in an interview Friday morning.

Abortion services coming to P.E.I.6:51

He said the centre could include health services and counselling services for women dealing with any number of reproductive health issues.

This request is more comprehensive than what may have been asked of Health PEI before.

"We'll hear back from them in terms of what they believe we can do or may be able to do over a period of time," he said. "But we've indicated we would envisage the service being in place by the end of the calendar year."

The premier said at this time it is not known how much it would cost to provide the service and what resources would be required, but said the government was prepared to deal with it when the time came.

Ongoing issue

Asked how long he had been thinking about the issue of providing access to abortions on the Island, MacLauchlan said it was something that had been on the table since his government was elected.

"It's been an issue for governments in Prince Edward Island for decades. It's been an issue within government, it's been an issue in conversations with Islanders and most notably since January fifth when the notice of litigation was filed which brought it to a head in terms of the constitutional issues."

After MacLauchlan was elected, the government did take steps to provide access to abortion services in Moncton.

MacLauchlan said in the broader sense, it's an overall commitment to offer to Islanders timely accessible health services in the highest quality it could.

"At this point, it's not an issue of legal analysis but of what a government does when you're informed, advised that your constitutional position is one that requires you to live up to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said. "That's the approach we take to health across the board."

Move forward

MacLauchlan said the abortion issue was discussed within government and MLAs were able to have their say about it.

"I have colleagues who are pro choice, colleagues who are pro-life, and we didn't request them to leave that at the door. This is very much who we are and how we reflect the diversity and range of views of Prince Edward Island."

The premier said it was after these discussions, as well as after getting expert advice and hearing from Islanders that the decision was reached.

"Where we are today is you reach a point where you say this is the path we believe is in the best interest and meets our obligations in both health and law."

MacLauchlan said he's sure the government has not heard the end of the debate on the issue but adds the government's decision has been made and it will be moved forward.

He expects to have many conversations with advocates on both sides of the issue in the future.

With files from Island Morning