P.E.I. Supreme Court will not proceed with abortion challenge

A P.E.I. man arguing P.E.I.'s health department is violating its own laws by paying for therapeutic abortions found out on Monday that the Supreme Court of P.E.I. will not proceed with his request for a judicial review.

Judge decided P.E.I. man cannot challenge government abortion practices

Kevin Arsenault found out Monday afternoon that the Supreme Court will not hear his case. Arsenault is arguing that P.E.I.'s health department is violating its own laws by paying for therapeutic abortions. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

A P.E.I. man has lost his bid to have the province's abortion funding practices undergo a judicial review.

On Monday afternoon, Supreme Court Justice Nancy Key said Kevin Arsenault "does not have significant private interest in the proceeding," nor has he shown there's public interest.

Arsenault argued that P.E.I.'s health department is violating its own laws by paying for therapeutic abortions.

Key weighed arguments presented in court Monday morning on whether Kevin Arsenault has legal standing to challenge the government through a judicial review.

Filed application for review in February 

Arsenault filed an application for a review in February, arguing the province has acted outside its own laws by authorizing payments for abortions performed on Island women in Halifax and Moncton.

Arsenault's primary argument was that under provincial regulations, the health minister can only authorize payments for "medically required" procedures, and that abortions don't fit that bill.

This morning in court, provincial government lawyer Robert MacNevin argued Arsenault doesn't have legal standing, given that he doesn't have a "real stake or genuine interest" in the issue. According to MacNevin, Arsenault is "acting as a lone taxpayer to assert his beliefs on abortion." 

MacNevin also pointed out that — after changes to regulations in the province's Health Services Payment Act last month — the health minister is no longer legally required to determine if abortions are medically required.

"The regulation that [Arsenault] complained about has been changed," said MacNevin in court. 

But while MacNevin spent just 10 minutes presenting the province's argument against this case proceeding, Arsenault spent more than an hour laying out why it should go ahead.

The ... direct harm to me relates to my status as a taxpayer, where I must abide by government policies and practices that I believe are immoral and illegal.- Kevin Arsenault

Arsenault argued that while the province has removed the specific regulation requiring abortions to be medically required, "categorically, all health services still require that payment can only be triggered if they're medically required."

Arsenault also told the judge this issue is of direct interest to him, as he doesn't want his taxes used to pay for abortions.

Status as a taxpayer 

"The … direct harm to me relates to my status as a taxpayer, where I must abide by government policies and practices that I believe are immoral and illegal," said Arsenault. 

Arsenault maintains that it falls on interested citizens like him to bring abortion issues forward, given that "unborn children" cannot.  

To that point, MacNevin said "We're not dealing with children. We're dealing with unborn fetuses. Unborn fetuses don't have legal standing in this country."