This story is over 5 years old.


Canada's Prince Edward Island Improves Abortion Access by Sending Women to Neighboring Province

PEI is the only Canadian province without an abortion clinic and women fighting for better access differed on whether the new arrangement was a "major step" or a "slap in the face."
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

The government of the only Canadian province without an abortion clinic has announced "a first step" toward better access — by sending women to a neighboring province to undergo the procedure.

The change would cut travel time for those who need abortions on Prince Edward Island from the four hours it now takes to go to a hospital in Nova Scotia, to two hours to get to a hospital in New Brunswick.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, PEI Premier Wade MacLauchlan said the new arrangement with a New Brunswick hospital, including a toll-free information line, "will provide confidential, timely health care, and ensure continuity of service."


But PEI women who have had trouble accessing the procedure disagree on whether the announcement is "a major step" or "a slap in the face."

Previously, women and transgender people living on PEI had to travel to Halifax in order to have an abortion that's covered by Medicare. It's an exhausting process of booking appointments, waiting, hopefully receiving time off work, and traveling to another province to stay there overnight.

A woman who dealt with the typical month-long wait for a procedure told VICE News the option to have an abortion in New Brunswick, instead, is "a major step."

Although she believes there are still many problems with accessing the procedure — for her, the most stressful part was making her appointment, waiting for the procedure, and hoping everything, including her blood test and ultrasound, went smoothly — the ability for women to have an abortion at a hospital closer to home is a big deal.

"People are calling this a band-aid solution, or that nothing has really changed," said the woman, who spoke to VICE News on condition of anonymity. "I think PEI needs local access and I don't think we should stop fighting for it, but I can't help but be happy that no one else has to go through what I did."

Related: Harrowing Experiences of Medical Abortions on Canada's Prince Edward Island Renews Criticism

Another woman, however, is calling the announcement an "absolute slap in the face."


Courtney Cudmore's story gained attention last month when she revealed that a doctor at a PEI emergency room told her "we are not comfortable" dealing with complications that had arisen from her medical abortion.

The doctor went on to tell her she was still pregnant. He said she could go to a clinic in Halifax.

"If I had gone in with a natural miscarriage they would have helped me, but since it was induced I was garbage and a bother," she wrote in a Facebook post.

When she heard Tuesday's announcement, she reacted on Facebook again.

"You have made the detour to abortion access shorter. Appreciate that. But you are still leaving us behind to fend for ourselves," she wrote.

The premier said PEI residents will now be able to directly access the service without needing a doctor's referral or medical office signature.

He added that the decision was made after consultations with "key stakeholders."

"This is the first step" toward addressing access to abortion on the island, the minister responsible for the status of women, Paula Biggar, told reporters at the event.

Medicare covered 85 abortions for PEI residents last year, and a now-closed clinic in New Brunswick used to provide abortions for 60 to 70 people a year, CTV reported.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter@hilarybeaumont