My name is Jackie Torrens and I live in Halifax. But I am an Islander – born and bred in Charlottetown and I lived there for the first two decades of my life.

When I was 16 and living in Charlottetown I had an unwanted pregnancy. I visited my doctor, only to have her tell me there was nothing she could do except refer me out of province. At great expense and in secrecy and shame, I got myself to Montreal and had an abortion at Morgentaler’s clinic. I had to take time off work that I could little afford and that no one compensated me for – I had to lie to everyone around me about why I was not going to be around for 4 days. I know many, many Island women with similar stories. My own happened decades ago – and this cruelty is STILL occurring?

It is every woman’s right in Canada to have safe access to abortion. Island women have the right to have this access IN THEIR HOME PROVINCE. The fact that women on the island have to LEAVE the island makes an already difficult choice that much more difficult and expensive. It is especially punitive to rural women.

An article from this very paper from January of this year shows that choice for women is supported by the majority of islanders (Majority of P.E.I. Residents Pro-Choice: Poll, Jan/2015). Another island news story from last fall reported that a plan to provide safe abortion services on the island – a proposal that would have saved the province and women seeking those services money – was suddenly and abruptly axed by Health Minister Currie (Abortion service on P.E.I. would have saved money: report, CBC PEI, Oct/14). With the majority of Islanders for choice and a plan for fiscal savings in place, what exactly is stopping safe abortion services for island women from happening?

I am really grateful that the woman who, after taking a doctor prescribed pill to induce abortion, was denied adequate medical care at the QEH ER has gone public with her story. It can’t be easy – especially as she will have the endure the inevitable ignorant comments about her character – but she is highlighting an incredibly important issue that needs to be talked about. Women need to hear other women to gather the courage to come forward and men need to hear what women have to deal with when it comes to reproductive health – they are often in the dark about what women go through in this area, difficult things we have to deal with that are actually commonplace occurrences in the reproductive life of human females.

It is far past the time that Island women be given their human rights. Health professionals need to perform their duties with care and compassion, regardless of their personal beliefs. Island governments need to once and for all stop behaving like Ward Cleaver and give Island women what is long overdue: access to safe abortion procedures in their home province. Surely a province so progressive as to break down barriers by having a female premier, an Arab-Canadian premier and now, an openly gay premier can embrace this much-needed change for Island women?


Jackie Torrens