The Sovereign Uterus – An Update

Yesterday’s blog post turned out to be quite timely. Today, the Prince Edward Island provincial government announced changes to reproductive health services for Island women.

In a press conference this morning they announced that they had reached an agreement with the Moncton Hospital to provide direct abortion services to Island women.

Here is what is changing (as of July 1st):

– Women may call the Moncton Hospital directly to schedule an appointment for an abortion

– Women are no longer required to obtain a doctor’s referral or associated preliminary steps (presumably bloodwork, ultrasounds)

– A toll-free telephone line will be established so that women may call the Moncton Hospital directly and receive information about abortion services

– The government has pledged to make more information regarding reproductive health available online and at key access points

Here is what is not changing:

– Women are still unable to receive abortion services on PEI

– Transportation costs associated with traveling off Island to obtain an abortion are still not covered, though vague references to travel programs were mentioned during the press conference

Some thoughts:

– Eliminating the need for Island women to obtain a doctor’s referral and the associated tests is a significant step that should (I think) eliminate some key difficulties in accessing abortion services 

– Similarly, offering more information via Health PEI on how to obtain abortion services is a welcome step forward

– However, these changes still feel minimal. The most obvious barrier to access – the lack of services available on the Island – persists. 

– Throughout the press conference, politicians refused to speak to why abortion services will not be offered on PEI. This is deeply frustrating and suggests that they are more interested in appeasing the increasingly vocal pro-choice advocates than truly transforming reproductive health for Island women.

– Still, the PEI Status of Women is optimistic:

– I think the PEI Status of Women raises an excellent point – the fact that the newly elected government felt pressure to respond to citizens’ concerns regarding access to the full-range of reproductive health services is important and encouraging. In fact, Paula Biggar, the minister responsible for the status of women, acknowledged that she had read testimony of Island women who have sought abortion services. Although she didn’t reference it by name, it seemed clear that she as referring to The Sovereign Uterus project that I blogged about yesterday. So while their offer is not enough, it’s a small but meaningful step forward.