'I don't know if you guys remember me?' says a young woman standing at a microphone, before a panel at Health PEI's 2nd annual general meeting. She is soft spoken, her question is studied, her position informed, and her persistance, commendable. She stands in front of what is surely a group of individuals who have nothing new to add to the discussion on why PEI continues to discriminate against women by not providing abortion services within their own province.
In 2011 a young woman from Charlottetown attended Health PEI's 1st Annual General meeting. She asked about PEI's lack of abortion services:
'Abortion Hot topic at Health PEI meeting' CBC.ca
It's noted in the above article: Dr. Jeff Turnbull, guest speaker at the meeting and past president of the Canadian Medical Association, was first to respond.
"Primary services should be provided within the constituency within which you live," said Turnbull "I can understand patients having to go for tertiary or high-tech services outside of a jurisdiction. We do that within Ontario. But I think we have a responsibility to provide all of the services necessary for a community."
Since that time women on PEI have rallied, formed new associations, written letters, and let the gov't of PEI hear their voices. We demanded access. We demanded equality. But like so many issues facing Islanders these days, those voices fell on deaf ears. Basically, they have less than no clue. But, we know all too well, ignorance is no defense. So even if this gov't is ignorant, they are still responsible. And I'd just like to point out that I HOPE this gov't is ignorant, because if they are not, then I have to think they are calculating. Considering unwanted pregnancies can put women on a path to poverty. Considering some women will harm themselves in order to attempt to end an unwanted pregnancy if they don't have access to services. Considering a pregnancy, let alone an unwanted pregnancy is something neither our Premier nor our Health Minister will ever experience. I have to believe that these two gentleman are truly ignorant, and as men, have never fully considered what it means to be a woman who is not in control of her reproductive system. The alternative, that they are actually not ignorant, and are therefore calculating in their disinterest in our push for equality and autonomy over our own body, is something so horrid that I am chosing not to think about that right now.
In the words of Scarlet O'hara I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.
In October of this year a Pan-Canadian Day of Action for Reproductive Justice was kicked-off in Charlottetown hilighting for the country the fact that PEI continues to deny women of PEI the same access to primary healthcare that women in every other province enjoy.
PEI focus of National Abortion Rally The Guardian
It seems even shaming this Premier nationally has little effect. Which brings us to the 2nd annual Health PEI General meeting and ... 'I don't know if you guys remember me from last year?' The same young woman addresses the panel for a second time:
Why are abortions currently not being performed on PEI? According to Dr. Wedge: "The Premier of the province has told us at Health PEI that he wants to maintain the status quo, and it's our role to implement the health plan as given by the government".
Any attempt to try and misdirect and say that 'clinics need to be created' or 'physicians need to request to perform the procedure' are only ways of explaining a lack of motivation on the part of gov't to a population who likely don't fully understand the full scope of providing abortion services. Abortion services in my own opinion, belong in hospitals. If they are set apart, in clinics, they become vulnerable. As far as physicians having to first ask to provide the service, do you really think ANY physicians are going to come forward until the language and policy of this gov't change and show them the way? Isn't gov't supposed to lead in this fashion?
Comparisons between abortion services and cardiac surgery are ridiculous. Again this plays to a public who has little understanding of abortion procedures and the difference between primary and tertiary healthcare.
The gov't is depending on the fact that the public is ill-informed about abortion; what policy needs to change, what it takes to provide service, what's involved in keeping folks who provide and folks who access the service safe, what's invovled in the actual procedure and what's at risk if service is not provided. What IS involved is a gov't that leads the way, that changes policy loudly and clearly that uses language that says that women have the right to control their reproduction. Full stop.
This gov't under the leadership of Robert Ghiz, Premier and Doug Currie, Health Minister has abandoned the women of PEI. And while the women and men who believe that this form of discrimination has to stop plan their next moves we'll hear the predictable 'all you can do is vote them out the next time'.
I don't know about you, but I've never been very good at waiting.
Update: (PEI) NDP demans Premier Robert Ghiz respect Women's Health above political motives. This press release ran on Nov. 16
Editorial: Take Discrimination out of Healthcare ran today :) Nov. 21
We're not going away. We're not going to stop reminding this Liberal gov't that they are discriminating against Island women. We know our rights. We know what IS right.