LEAF Proudly Supports Abortion Access Now PEI’s Legal Challenge to Prince Edward Island’s Discriminatory Abortion Policy

January 5, 2016, Toronto – Today, Abortion Access Now PEI (AAN PEI) advised the Prince Edward Island (PEI) government that it will file a legal challenge to the province’s abortion policy.

PEI women are the only women in Canada without access to safe, legal abortion in their home province. For more than 25 years, PEI has flouted the spirit of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Morgentaler by completely denying access to abortion on the Island. It is time for PEI to abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and treat its citizens with the dignity afforded to citizens of every other province.

The government of PEI has stated that it is “moving forward with its commitment to address barriers to abortion access.” Unfortunately, this commitment is not materializing into local, safe access to legal abortion on PEI.

PEI’s abortion policy violates the right of PEI women to equal access to health care services under section 15 of the Charter. PEI’s Abortion Policy is a state-imposed barrier to the right and ability of individual women to exercise control over matters fundamental to their physical, emotional and psychological integrity. Difficulty, uncertainty, delay, lack of access and stigma cause PEI women physical and psychological harm, including harm to conscience and dignity.

LEAF is providing litigation support to AAN PEI, a courageous group of local activists, in order to bring a legal challenge to PEI’s abortion policy. According to AAN PEI, “For over two decades, we have advocated for on-Island, safe, legal access to abortion. Unfortunately, it is clear to us that nothing short of a court order will prompt the government to comply with its obligations to PEI residents under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Every other province provides safe legal access to abortion. Only PEI refuses to do so. It is time for our equality rights to matter. PEI’s discriminatory and unlawful abortion policy must end.”

AAN PEI spokesperson Dr. Colleen MacQuarrie, Associate Professor Psychology Department, University of Prince Edward Island, has examined the effects of PEI’s abortion policy, especially upon young or poor women, over the last 20 years. She explains, “We have spoken with many women who have tried to access emergency contraception, who have traveled off Island to have an abortion, and who have been blocked from having an abortion. They confided trying to self induce an abortion at home, ingesting chemicals or physical injury sometimes with a boyfriend helping to inflict punches to the stomach”. Dr. MacQuarrie notes that: “If you limit options, people get desperate and desperate people do things they might not ordinarily do. Some of these pregnancies continued and some women sought other means to abort while others felt blocked, unable to do more, and some women spoke of being forced to bear children while they were not ready to do so.”

Access to abortion (along with other elements of reproductive health care such as access to contraception, information and support for parenting) is critical for equality rights to be realized. LEAF is committed to protecting and promoting equality rights and LEAF is proud to support AAN PEI’s legal challenge to Prince Edward Island’s abortion policy.

AAN PEI is required to provide the government with 90 days’ notice of the intended challenge. You can see the notice here and the draft Notice of Application, the final version of which will be filed in 90 days, here.

Donations in support of the case can be made HERE.

For more information about LEAF’s work for reproductive justice, please click HERE.

About Abortion Access Now PEI (AAN PEI)
AAN PEI is dedicated to returning local access to safe abortions plans to promote, advocate for and create the conditions for full and unfettered access to surgical and medical abortion services including diagnostic and follow-up care, in PEI, paid for by the PEI healthcare system. Nasha Nijhawan and Kelly McMillan of Nijhawan McMillan Barristers are representing AAN PEI in this challenge.

About Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Since April 17, 1985, when equality rights were enshrined in sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, LEAF has worked toward equality for women and girls. LEAF intervenes in key cases to ensure that when courts interpret equality rights, there will be a systemic improvement in women’s lives. For more information about LEAF, visit www.leaf.ca

For media inquiries, please contact:

Dr. Kim Stanton
LEAF, Legal Director
416.595.7170 x 223
[email protected]