National Partnership for Women & Families

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Canadian Abortion Access Limited Outside of Large Cities

Canadian Abortion Access Limited Outside of Large Cities

June 2, 2014 — Although abortion is legal in Canada, it is difficult to access outside of the nation's large urban areas, especially for women in the Maritime provinces and rural parts of the country, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports.

The Canadian Supreme Court struck down the country's federal abortion law in 1988, creating "the impression that abortions are generally available with little restriction," according to the Globe and Mail.

However, a study published last year in the Women's Studies International Forum found that 45% of almost 1,200 women surveyed at 17 freestanding abortion clinics had to travel more than an hour to obtain abortion services.

Study co-author Christabelle Sethna, an associate professor of women's studies at the University of Ottawa, said that "the majority of Canadians do not have any idea how difficult abortion access can be if you are living outside or far away from an urban centre."

Funding Restrictions

Abortion restrictions also vary among provinces. For example, on Prince Edward's Island, to use public funding for an abortion, a woman must get a physician's referral and travel to a hospital in Halifax. The PEI government recently rejected a proposal for a twice-monthly, hospital-based abortion clinic staffed by three out-of-province doctors.

In New Brunswick, women who want a publicly funded abortion must obtain the approval of two doctors who agree that the procedure is "medically necessary" and then have the procedure performed in a hospital by an obstetrician (Grant, Toronto Globe and Mail, 5/29).