In a Feb. 23 interview with Global News, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, said she would not rule out withholding health transfer payments to Prince Edward Island if it does not make abortion available on the Island.
In November, Philpott said the federal government would work to make abortion access easier in Prince Edward Island, which does not carry out surgical abortions on the Island, and in rural and remote communities across Canada. Talking to Global, she reiterated the government’s commitment to “equitable” abortion access in Canada.
It does not appear that the government has done much in the intervening period, as Philpott said, “I will be checking back with them in the near future to find out what their further plans are on this.”
Philpott, a rookie MP for Markham—Stouffville and formerly the Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital, said she had “some good conversations” with PEI Liberal Health Minister Robert Henderson at the health ministers’ meeting in Vancouver earlier this year.
Asked whether the government would withhold federal transfer payments if PEI did not move on the abortion file, Philpott said she preferred to work “in a very collaborative” style with the provinces and a “punitive approach was not the first choice.” Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of Campaign Life Coalition, observed that Philpott pointedly did not rule out withholding portions of health transfer payments. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Chretien government docked payments to both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia because those provinces did not fully fund abortions carried out in private facilities. The Harper Conservatives renewed full funding when they returned to power in 2006.
The abortion activist group Abortion Access Now PEI is suing the province’s Liberal government to provide abortions on the Island, currently Canada’s only abortion-free province. The Toronto-based abortion activist group LEAF, the Legal and Education Action Fund is providing AAN PEI with litigation support.
Last year, the provincial government of Wade MacLauchlan announced that it would expand abortion by paying for surgical abortions done in New Brunswick and not just Halifax, loosen the requirements for women to get compensated for leaving the Island for abortions, and launching a hotline with abortion information. Philpott said in November that they these steps were insufficient to guarantee abortion access to Island women, nor did they satisfy Aobrtion Access Now PEI.
CLC’s Douglas said it’s hard to fathom why the pro-abortion activists are so persistent in pushing for abortion access, particularly in PEI. She told LifeSiteNews, “they just can’t stand the fact that there’s a province in this country that won’t kill like the rest of us.”
In 2013, 102 PEI women obtained abortions off the Island.