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PEI abortion activists use Anne of Green Gables' image to push their cause.
Steve Weatherbe

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Pro-lifer claims PEI’s abortion policy is illegal, seeks judicial review

Steve Weatherbe

February 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Since June of 2015 any Prince Edward Island girl or woman can get a taxpayer-funded abortion by simply making an appointment by phone with the Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick and then driving over. But this, argues pro-life activist Kevin Arsenault in a newly-launched lawsuit seeking a judicial review, is a clear violation of provincial law and stated policy.

“The majority of Islanders still oppose abortion-on-demand,” Arsenault told LifeSiteNews. “But now even a 16-year-old girl can get an abortion in Moncton, just an hour’s drive away, without telling her parents anything more than she’s going there on a shopping trip. She can get the ultrasound in the morning and the abortion in the afternoon.”

Arsenault has filed an application to the provincial Supreme Court to have the government’s policies for funding abortions declared illegal.

Arsenault cites two laws, the PEI Health Services Act and the PEI Health Services Payment Act, which both require that only procedures deemed “medically necessary” can be funded under the health plan, and a resolution of the Legislative Assembly passed in the shocked aftermath of the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada Morgentaler decision throwing out Canada’s abortion law, explaining what “medically necessary” means.

Resolution 17 states, that “Whereas the great majority of the people of PEI believe that life begins at conception and any policy that permits abortion is unacceptable…therefore be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly of PEI oppose the performing abortions except where there are grounds to believe the life of the mother is endangered.”

Arsenault points to other PEI health legislation which restates the principle that, in the case of abortion, medical necessity means a life-threatening circumstance.

Given the hostility to abortion in PEI at the time (and throughout the Maritimes) the Liberal government of the day also decided to pay for abortions only when done outside the province, and allow no abortions in tax-funded hospitals, a policy still in place.

The complaints of abortion advocates at having to drive off-island over the eight-mile-long Confederation Bridge for the abortion have increased lately, and provoked promises from the Liberal government, when it got re-elected, to do something about it.  The result is what Arsenault calls “the Moncton Abortion Policy."

To get an abortion at the Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick, Arsenault claims in his application, all that is needed is for the woman to give her provincial health care number. 

Before that, getting abortions took a much longer drive to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax and only after a PEI doctor had ratified that the abortion was “medically required,” and a government advisory committee had agreed. Neither is required to abort in Moncton. Under the old rules, 105 abortions were funded by the province in 2013, the last year reported.

Arsenault argues in his application that both the restricted abortion coverage provided before last year via Nova Scotia and the abortions so freely available in New Brunswick violate provincial law for another reason. Despite the rubber stamps from doctors and the advisory committee, none of these abortions is medically required, and maybe has ever been.

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“Given technological and medical advancements,” Arsenault’s application asserts, “it is the view of obstetrical and gynaecological medical experts that it is no longer the case that the condition of a pregnant woman would ever be such that a therapeutic abortion is medically required.” Arsenault cites both a statement from the Canadian Physicians for Life and the 2012 Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health, agreeing that abortion is never medically required.

“I think I’ve made an ironclad case,” said Arsenault, while admitting there is a remote chance the court will not recognize him as having “standing”—a clear personal interest in the question he poses. But he maintains that he has an interest as a taxpayer in ensuring public spending is properly approved under law.

If Arsenault wins his suit the government can change its laws, he admits, but they will have to go through the usual six-month process of public discussion and debate in the Legislature. If the life of a single unborn child is spared as a result, he’ll be satisfied. “I want people to realize the truth, that we are paying for the unnecessary termination of human beings under the euphemism of reproductive rights. But it is really reproductive wrong.”

Nicole Dupuis of PEI Right to Life told LifeSiteNews, “We applaud Mr. Arsenault for having the courage and integrity to stand up for the truth that abortion kills an innocent child.”

The provincial government had not responded to LifeSite’s request for comment at publication time.

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