Halifax woman opening her home to P.E.I. women needing abortions

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A Prince Edward Island woman now living in Halifax is opening her home to women from her province needing abortions in the city because the procedure is not available there.

Chelsey Buchanan posted on social media offering a room, food, bus tickets and transportation to the clinic. She hasn't had any requests for the room yet.

Buchanan said she was inspired to offer help after reading the Sovereign Uterus, a blog where women were sharing their frustrations with the system.

"I was reading over it and I saw that so many women had travelled home afterwards, like after getting the procedure done and it was against doctor's orders," she said. "So I kind of figured there are a lot people out there that don't have the means to stay in Halifax overnight, and I mean I have space, so why not offer up what I have?"

P.E.I. is the only province in Canada where surgical abortions are not performed, but some doctors will provide a prescription for a medical abortion. The province pays for the service but not the cost of travel. A 2014 Health PEI report indicated the government could have saved $37,000 a year by providing the service on the island. The report said about 153 women had to seek the service in 2013.

In her Facebook post, Buchanan said she and her boyfriend would respect the space people need while in town.

"This will be on a strictly no-questions-asked basis," said Buchanan in the post. "There will be no judgement. I will also not share with anyone that you are here, if this is something you would like to keep private."

Buchanan said she and her boyfriend travel regularly to and from P.E.I., so they're happy to provide transportation if their schedules align with people.

The head of the P.E.I. Women's Network, a not-for-profit organization that works to strengthen and support the efforts of P.E.I. women, thinks Buchanan's offer is a lovely gesture, but is disappointed that the current abortion situation on the Island compels an individual to help out.

"The barriers to getting to Halifax for a procedure over there are so great that these are the sorts of things that have to happen in order for women to be able to access these services," said Sara Roach-Lewis.

She said there is a lack of services in place supporting P.E.I. women looking for an abortion. At Women's Network P.E.I., they often field calls from women wondering where they can turn for help.

"I don't know who to send them to," said Roach-Lewis.

She says access to abortion is something the provincial government needs to deal with.

Offer to help isn't new

Becka Viau is the person who created the blog. It launched on Wednesday and has had more than 40,000 page views to date.

She said the service Buchanan is offering isn't new. She said there is a confidential network of people around the Maritimes helping women by doing just what Buchanan is offering. The difference is Buchanan is providing a public face to the service.

Viau said it is unacceptable that it is up to private citizens to help out like this.

"When women have to be responsible for their own health and safety and wellness when it comes to a public health service, it's pretty unacceptable to me. It shouldn't be the community that has to carry this," she said.

Not illegal to provide procedure

The reason for not offering abortions on the Island is unclear.

In 2014, the provincial health department cited economies of scale, noting that "Due to Prince Edward Island's size and population, it is not possible to provide every medical procedure within our province."

There is no law, policy or regulation in place to prevent abortions from being performed on P.E.I. and any qualified doctor on the Island could apply for operating room privileges to perform one. However, a proposal to provide abortion service on the Island on a limited basis was nixed by Health Minister Doug Currie in 2014.

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