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Abortion Services Are Coming Back To P.E.I. After More Than 20 Years Of Fighting

It took some serious legal action, but it's actually happening.

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Thanks to the pressure of local activists, Prince Edward Island is set to once again allow abortions to be performed in the province.

James West / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced Thursday the province will develop a women's reproductive centre that will offer medical and surgical abortions in a hospital setting.

While reproductive justice advocates have been pressuring the government to bring back abortion services since 1982, it was a legal challenge that finally made them budge.

In January, activists announced they were filing legal action over the province's lack of abortion services, arguing current policies violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Right now, a woman in P.E.I. seeking an abortion must travel off-island. The province will cover the cost if the procedure is performed at hospitals in Moncton, New Brunswick or Halifax, Nova Scotia, but that still leaves women with travel costs and potential lost wages.

In his statement, MacLauchlan said it wasn't a fight the province expected to win, and that legal advice suggested it would be more "responsible" to just change the policy.

“We recognize that Islanders, including Members of the Legislative Assembly, have strong personal beliefs on this issue; we also recognize our obligation to provide timely and professional health care, without discrimination," said MacLauchlan.

It's welcome news to activists who been demanding equal access to the procedure.

iamkarats / Via instagram.com

The groups behind the legal action — Abortion Access Now PEI and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund — said they are proud to have "played a role in bringing about this historic change."

"This outcome would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of the activists in P.E.I. who have tirelessly advocated for abortion access in the province over the last three decades, as well as the brave women who have come forward to share their personal stories," they said in a joint statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also applauded the move, saying "a women's right to choose is a fundamental right in our country."

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“The Government of Canada reaffirms its belief that a woman should have access to reproductive health services, no matter where they live in our country," he said, in a statement.

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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