Ok, so is anyone else totally excited to see what's happening around abortion access in PEI? My last two weekly readers have been chock full of news around this, and I keep reading more and more about it.
For those who don't know, there is no abortion access on PEI at all. Those women who do need/want an abortion generally do one of two things: travel to Fredericton to have an abortion done at the Morgentaler Clinic for $600 - $800; or travel to Halifax to have an abortion at the hospital, which is covered under the reciprocal billing agreement between Nova Scotia and PEI.
Obviously there are a lot of problems with these two options, the main one being that out-of-province travel is not something that everyone has access to all the time. Especially travelling to Fredericton, where the abortion is done as an outpatient procedure in one early morning, weekday appointment. That is all kinds of inconvenient for the majority of PEI women.
Some other hurdles in this system include:
- Availability of appointments (at both locations; many times it is difficult for providers to keep up with the demand)
- Finding someone to drive/accompany you
- Paying for gas and/or overnight stay
- Lost day of work; childcare/petcare arrangements
- Explaining to the people in your life who might notice, why you went to Fredericton or Halifax for the day (assuming you don't want to tell them about your abortion)
- Navigating a potentially unfamiliar city, in the presence of protesters
- Suffering the potential discomfort or painful after effects of surgery during a prolonged car ride
- Making travel and accommodation arrangements around an early morning appointment
- Money, money, money!
...and on and on. This is assuming a woman even has the resources and support to know about those two options, and is able to get an appointment in time (the Fredericton clinic's gestational limit is sixteen weeks).
So you can see how this is a very difficult situation for any woman on PEI seeking an abortion, on top of which there is a shortage of doctors and a stigma around abortion.
All that said, it is amazing and inspiring to see Island activists rising up and demanding something better. I was active in reproductive rights activism for three years in Fredericton so I know a little bit about the difficulties of going against the grain in a small city with a certain outlook. People in the Maritimes are great, but sometimes the social climate is stifling - WASP-y, puritanical, ridiculously conservative/traditional and most of all, silent (and silencing). I would even say Victorian, at times. It's a difficult place to be a young person, a progressive, and especially someone from a marginalized group.
The result is a difficult uphill battle for activists. And maybe the silver lining is that the Maritimes builds fierce, resilient activists. My heart goes out to the brave people fighting the powers that be on PEI; please think of them and do what you can to help.