Health Minister Jane Philpott

Health Minister Jane Philpott

Replying to an inquiry from the CBC, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said the government will “equalize” abortion “access” across Canada, which abortion advocates claim is not universally easy throughout the country.

In a written response to the state broadcaster, Philpott said: “We know that abortion services remain patchy in parts of the country, and that rural women in particular face barriers to access. Our government will examine ways to better equalize access for all Canadian women.”

In recent years the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has produced studies that claim Prince Edward Island, northern Canada, and rural areas have insufficient abortion services and has agitated for expanded abortion services in these remote areas. The ARCC has called for more hospitals to carry out abortion procedures, the elimination of conscientious objection by pro-life doctors, screening out of pro-life ob-gyns at medical school, easy access to the abortion pill, and punishing provinces such as New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island for maintaining minimal restrictions on abortion.

Earlier this year, the new Liberal provincial government of Wade MacLauchlan in P.E.I. expanded the province’s funding of out-of-province abortions while maintaining the Island’s surgical abortion-free designation. However, on the federal campaign trail, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau hinted that might not be enough as he maintained that a service available in one province needs to be available in all. He told the fashion magazine Flare in October that “a Liberal government would work with P.E.I. to ensure women have access to a full range of safe reproductive services.”

ARCC’s Joyce Arthur has authored papers complaining about the lack of access in rural areas, saying that despite the presence of willing abortionists, they lack surgical times in hospitals, face a shortage of assistance in the form of nurses or anaesthesiologists, and encounter public ostracism for plying their trade. Arthur argues for increased access to chemical abortions, mandatory abortion training medical schools, and eliminating conscience rights to health care professionals.

Philpott has not indicated whether any of those policies are being considered. When the ministerial mandate letters were publicly released on Nov. 13, there was no mention of abortion to the newly appointed Philpott.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes told The Interim it was “troubling but unsurprising that the Trudeau government is pushing abortion right out of the gate,” considering that Justin Trudeau is the “most pro-abortion political leader this country has ever seen, taking away the democratic right of Liberal supporters to nominate pro-life candidates and taking away the conscience rights of his MPs to vote pro-life.” Hughes said whatever policies the Health Minister pursues to expand abortion in Canada will be vigorously opposed by CLC and the public. “Canada’s health care system needs many upgrades but more abortion is not one of them,” Hughes said. “The public might raise questions about why the focus on expanding abortion but not other health services.”

The Toronto Star reported that one in six Canadian hospitals carry out abortions. Hughes noted that many patients must travel for even legitimate health care services as hospitals specialize or are unable to provide every surgery and that there is a shortage of physicians throughout the country. Pointing to the fact that there are approximately 100,000 surgical abortions in Canada, Hughes said, “there is no shortage of abortion in Canada.”