I planned to roll out a series of daily policy statements on a wide variety of topics in coming weeks, which I started this week with a series of policies on “True Transparency”. My #3 in that series will come out tomorrow.
Next week I plan to present a number of unique policies to significantly transform the way government works, which I’m dubbing my “Anti-Corruption” policies.
I intended to put out my health, wellness and pro-life policies a little closer to Christmas. However, after reading the editorial in today’s (December 12, 2018) Guardian, “Fresh Faces in PC Race,” I think it’s important for me to correct the Guardian’s misstatement of my policy on abortion immediately. The editorial made the following statement:
Wow! Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve “reversed” or changed absolutely nothing on this issue. In fairness to the Guardian, I suppose it’s understandable that they came to this conclusion. I’ll explain.
After my official Campaign launch last Wednesday evening at the Murchinson Centre in Charlottetown, I was interviewed by Guardian reporter Stu Neatby. He asked me about my position on abortion. I pointed out that because the issue of “legal access” to abortion is entirely a matter of federal jurisdiction, no provincial politician can change or enact a federal law restricting access to abortion in Canada. Neatby reported what I said about legal access in his December 7, 2018 Guardian article covering my Campaign Launch as follows:
Over the next few days, I received quite a few calls asking me why I wouldn’t end abortions in PEI as they figured I would. Unfortunately, many pro-life Islanders mistakenly believe that the Premier of PEI can “ban” abortions outright, but this just isn’t legally possible.
And presently, there is no federal abortion law either prohibiting or limiting abortions, so a woman can legally have an abortion – for any reason, at any time – right up to the moment of birth. Canada is just one of four counties in the world with no law on abortion, the others being China, Vietnam, and North Korea. A national pro-life organization called “We Need a Law” has been lobbying to change this situation, and has my full support.
However – and this is important – exclusive federal jurisdiction regarding the matter of legal access to abortion doesn’t mean that provincial governments have no say over abortion services.
As Mollie Dunsmuir with the Law and Government Division of the Federal government wrote in her report clarifying the jurisdictional issue of abortion law in Canada, titled Abortion: Constitutional and Legal Developments:
“There has been considerable debate over the limits of federal responsibility for, or jurisdiction over, abortion. Because abortion requires a medical procedure, it is a health issue. To the extent that it is desirable to prohibit abortions, or establish the conditions under which they cannot be performed, jurisdiction will lie with the federal government, because prohibition of an action for health or moral reasons is constitutionally associated with criminalization. To the extent that it is desirable to regulate abortions, or the conditions under which they can be performed, jurisdiction will lie with the government that has the right or duty to regulate such health issues.”
So what is my policy regarding the “regulation of abortion services?” I would follow the law that is currently in place in Prince Edward Island; which, incidentally, the current Premier and Liberal government is not doing.
Two Acts currently provide the framework and legal basis for the administration and provision of health services within PEI – the Health Services Act and the Health Services Payment Act. Each of these statutes state unequivocally that the PEI Health Services Plan only authorizes payment for “medically-necessary” procedures. In fact, the legal definition of “basic health services” within the Health Services Payment Act is intrinsically linked to services deemed to be medically required:
- (d) “basic health services” means all services rendered by physicians that in the opinion of the Minister are medically required…
The only way a medical service can be deemed to be medically required in PEI under the current law is if a licensed physician makes such a determination. When Premier MacLauchlan implemented a policy combining “abortion on demand” and “self-referral” he effectively removed the need for women seeking abortions to first obtain a doctor’s assessment that an abortion was medically necessary, as required by the law.
Although those supporting abortion on demand argue that an abortion is medically-necessary “…if a woman says it is medically necessary,” there is no scientific nor legal support for such an opinion within either the medical profession or Canadian law. In fact, the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada Morgantaler ruling striking down Criminal Code provisions defining the law on abortion at the time stated in its ruling that:
“The values we must accept for the purposes of this appeal are those expressed by Parliament which holds the view that the desire of a woman to be relieved of her pregnancy is not, of itself, justification for performing an abortion.” (p. 46).
As is common knowledge, many woman who have unwanted pregnancies – the majority of which are young and single – choose abortion not because it’s something they’ve always dreamed of doing, but because of hardships and difficult circumstances in their lives. In other words, they feel they have no “choice” but to have an abortion.
As Premier, I would give women a real choice about whether they have an abortion or bring their pregnancy to term by doing whatever I could to address those unpleasant and difficult circumstances confronting those women. By implementing policies and providing supports to improve the overall circumstance of women with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies so they would have a real choice, I truly believe many more Island women would choose to bring their pregnancies to term and allow their preborn children to be born and have a life.
Canada is a signatory to the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Leader of the Third Party recently rose in the PEI Legislative Assembly to remind the Minister of Family and Human Services that PEI – as a province of a country which signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – has an obligation to ensure that Island children don’t suffer violence or abuse at the hands of uncaring adults.
Although, in fairness, Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker was speaking only of “born children” at the time, it is nonetheless important to realize that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that the PEI government also has an obligation to protect children who are not yet born as well, when it states in the preamble:
“The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.“
With this obligation in mind, my policy on abortion would encompass the following measures designed to achieve the objective of providing children not yet born with the “special safeguards and care” to which they are entitled.
ABORTION POLICY FOR PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – AT A GLANCE
- As the Premier of Prince Edward Island I would follow the law which is currently in place and only pay for abortions that are deemed “medically necessary” by a licensed physician practicing in PEI.
- The money that is currently being used to fund abortions which are not medically-necessary [195 women accessed a hospital abortion in 2017] will be used to fund a new program within the Department of Family and Human Services designed to provide a wide range of personalized and targeted supports to women who feel they have no “choice” but to have an abortion due to the difficult circumstances they may be facing in their lives. These services would include both monetary and non-monetary supports.
- More resources will be provided to organizations such as Birthright and the Island Pregnancy Centre.
- The PEI Midwifery Act and Regulations (yet to be proclaimed and made public by the Liberal government) will be reviewed and strengthened to maximize the ability of groups such as the P.E.I. Midwives Association and The BORN Co-operative to provide supportive intervention and services to assist women to carry their pregnancies to term. Funding for such services and supports will be provided to these organizations by Health PEI.
- More resources will be provided to greatly enhance adoption services in PEI to simplify and enhance the process. In this way, women with unwanted pregnancies will have more awareness and opportunity concerning options to find a loving home for their children when born.
Kevin Arsenault deserves to win simply for the courage he’s shown in making this amazing and groundbreaking statement. He’ll come under enormous attack for his reasonable position, but if he sticks to his principles he can show politicians and Canadians from coast to coast they have nothing to fear from helping women facing unplanned pregnancies and by supporting some commonsense restrictions. Abortion is the default option for too many women thanks to pressure from their loved ones and the unrestricted access to abortion in this country. I pray this is the start of a new political era in Canada when pro-life issues can be rationally debated.
This is what I have been waiting for. before and since, abortion became legal on PEI. A common sense approach that meets the all the needs and concerns of all women in crisis pregnancies. There should also be a requirement that anyone requesting an abortion be referred to a legitimate Crisis pregnancy center before getting an abortion. These centers should also be licensed, regulated and subsidized by the PEI government to alleviate any fears of coercement, harassment or misinformation. Indeed, they should be required by law to report any of the above mentioned actions to the proper authorities.
Well done Kevin. It is time to return to common sense response to crisis pregnancies that will be beneficial not only to those women in crisis but also to soul of PEI.