My story: Before I got pregnant in Fall 2014, I thought I knew what the process of getting an abortion was like on PEI. I already knew it was hard and unfair, but it ended up being a lot harder than I imagined.
The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was contact someone who could get in touch with a doctor who provided medical abortions. I thought that was all it would take, and that my pregnancy would be over very soon. Even though my contact mentioned that this doctor had refused to give this service in the past, I was confident. Days went by with no word though. Almost a week later I got the confirmation – he would not treat me, for whatever reason. I had to start over with a new plan and try to make it to Halifax.
I have a family doctor but don’t know their views on abortion and wasn’t willing to find out during this time in case they would judge me. So I called the Termination of Pregnancy Unit at the QEII because I was told they would have a list of Island doctors who would give a referral. This list turned out to be one doctor. The date of that appointment was two weeks after I took a pregnancy test.
The appointment for the referral felt nearly useless. I wasn’t given a urine test to confirm pregnancy, which I thought was odd. When I said I was using non-hormonal methods of birth control she said I was bound to get pregnant that way, yet when I asked about getting an IUD it was strongly discouraged. She said it was too expensive, the wait lists were too long, and the complication weren’t worth it. I thought that was very weird. I can’t get an abortion on PEI, but I also can’t get the most effective form of birth control? I’ve later found out that getting an IUD on PEI isn’t nearly as hard or expensive as she said it was. I’m still trying to figure out why she would lie about that to me.
I thought this appointment was all I needed to get an appointment in Halifax, but it turned out I would need to go to the hospital to get a blood test (easy enough, I got a friend to drive me the next day and it only took about 15 minutes) and an ultrasound. The doctor told me that since the waiting list for ultrasounds was so long, I would have to get squeezed in when there was a cancellation. It could take weeks. I would have to drop everything and take whatever date was given me because it was my only chance.
Waiting for my ultrasound was the lowest part for me. Everything was out of my hands. I did not trust the QEH to not mess it up. I was scared I would somehow miss my chance. I was checking my phone constantly in case I got a call. I have never had the urge to self-harm before, but I did during this time. After about a week and a half I got a letter in the mail from the QEH with my ultrasound date. It looked like a package they send to all pregnant women because there was references to getting a keepsake photo of the ultrasound, finding out the sex, and referring to the fetus as a “baby”. I couldn’t even find the time to be mad about that though, because I was so relieved to finally have a date to look forward to.
I now know that I got lucky with my ultrasound technician. She was young and very friendly, clinical but not cold.
Soon after the ultrasound appointment I got a call from my referral doctors office with a date for Halifax. It was exactly a month after I found out I was pregnant and had started trying to move the process along. I was so so relieved and thanked them so much. I couldn’t believe how long it had taken just to get that specific date.
While this was all happening, abortion was in the news on PEI. It was the CBC investigation about the blocked proposal to bring abortion services to PEI. So I was going through all of this waiting and uncertainty while being constantly reminded on the radio/tv/online that I wouldn’t have to be going through this if it was approved.
At this time the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton was closed – I found myself wishing it was still open. The hundreds of dollars would have been hard for me to swing but I felt like it would have been worth it to not have this stressful month of trying to access a free abortion.
The actual trip to Halifax was probably the easiest part. My boyfriend drove me after I got off work, and I stayed at a friend’s house in Halifax. The next morning I had the procedure and it went smoothly and all the people working there were great. In the counseling session beforehand I told them about the blocked proposal in PEI. They had no idea about it. They told me they are overloaded in Halifax and do abortions all day long, every single day and there is still a long wait list. I wonder why officials in PEI are okay with contributing to this overload in other province’s resources?
Aside from the experience of trying to access medical abortion, EVERYTHING went right for me in this process. I had a very loving and supportive partner, great friends both in PEI and Halifax, I could leave my job for appointments/call in sick with no questions asked. I had enough money to make the journey. I had access to a car. I don’t have kids I need to find care for. I always knew my decision was right and never second-guessed it. I didn’t even have morning sickness or any other nasty first-trimester symptoms. Nothing could have made this easier for me in the current system, and it was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through.
Anonymous – PEI