Monday, August 10, 2020

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 Abstract

Excerpted From: Ciarra J. Minacci-Morey, Personal Narrative as a Tool of Legal Analysis to Evaluate and Improve Access to Abortion Services for Indigenous Women in Canada, 35 Connecticut Journal of International Law 272 (Fall, 2020) (Student Note) (197 Footnotes) (Full Document)

Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.), Canada derives much of its beauty and special qualities from its Island-geography that limits accessibility to the mainland. P.E.I. is one of Canada's Maritime Provinces and is located to the north and west of Canada's mainland provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, respectively. Separated from the mainland by the Northumberland Strait, individuals may only access P.E.I. by air, ferry, or the 12.9-kilometer-long Confederation Bridge that connects it to New Brunswick. As an island with limited accessibility, P.E.I. has remained somewhat free of rapid industrialization, environmental degradation, and human destruction. But the remoteness of P.E.I. that contributes to these benefits has also enabled certain social issues to avoid nationwide scrutiny, including women's access to abortion services.

Although legal in Canada, P.E.I. did not provide on-Island surgical abortions from 1982 until 2017. After almost thirty-five years of abortion rights' advocates fighting for on-Island abortion access and a notice of a pending lawsuit, the P.E.I. government announced in 2016 that P.E.I. would provide on-Island abortion services, including medical and surgical abortions. The fight for on-Island abortion services is indicative of the many barriers that women face in accessing safe abortions, even when abortion is legal.

This note will discuss abortion law in Canada. More specifically, this note will look at the barriers to access an abortion in Canada. In doing so, this note will examine how geographic location, race, and socioeconomic class all influence access to abortion services. Part I provided a short description of P.E.I. and its fight for on-Island abortion services. Part II will provide an overview of abortion law in Canada after 1988. Part III will discuss the barriers to abortion access in Canada, specifically looking at systematic and structural, location, and socioeconomic class barriers. Part IV will discuss how Critical Race Theory (CRT), and an application of personal narrative, a CRT tool of legal analysis, can evaluate and improve access to abortion services for Indigenous women in Canada. This note will argue that an application of personal narrative can correctly evaluate and improve access to abortion services for Indigenous women in Canada.

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Although abortion is legal in Canada and was decriminalized in the Morgentaler decision, various barriers exist that restrict women's access to abortion services, including but not limited to systematic and structural, geographic location, socioeconomic class, and race barriers. The experiences of women in P.E.I. demonstrated how numerous barriers intersected to restrict a woman's access to on-Island abortion services. As a result of the work of activists for reproductive justice on P.E.I., the province launched the Women's Wellness Program in January 2017 at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside, which provides abortion services along with sexual health services and pre- and postnatal care. The Women's Wellness Program was the first on-Island access to abortion services in almost thirty-five years, and was aided by the MacQuarrie Report, which consisted of personal narratives from women in P.E.I. with experiences in trying to access abortion services. The use of personal narratives in the MacQuarrie Report indicates the power of personal narrative as a tool of legal analysis and reform. In addition, Jane Doe 1 (2004) and Jane Doe 2 (2005) demonstrated how courts recognize the significance of and desire the fact-specific information and personal narratives from the women seeking abortions, when courts are evaluating claims and making decisions. But more importantly, the MacQuarrie Report and Jane Doe 1 (2004) and Jane Doe 2 (2005) indicate that the mere notice and initial filing of a lawsuit can help to challenge and broaden legal doctrine on access to abortion services.

This note discussed abortion law in Canada. More specifically, this note looked at the barriers to access to an abortion in Canada. In doing so, this note examined how geographic location, race, and socioeconomic class all influence access to abortion services. Part I provided a short description of P.E.I. and its fight for on-Island abortion services. Part II provided an overview of abortion law in Canada after 1988. Part III discussed the barriers to abortion access in Canada, specifically looking at systematic and structural, location, and socioeconomic class barriers. Part IV discussed how Critical Race Theory (CRT), and an application of personal narrative, a CRT tool of legal analysis, can evaluate and improve access to abortion services for Indigenous women in Canada. This note argued that an application of personal narrative can correctly evaluate and improve access to abortion services for Indigenous women in Canada.

Although the use of personal narrative in the MacQuarrie Report contributed to the launch of on-Island access to abortion services, there are still barriers that impede access to these services for P.E.I. women, such as travel to and lack of information about these services. But relative progress is significant in the fight for reproductive justice for women in P.E.I. Unlike women in P.E.I., Indigenous women in Canada still have inadequate access to abortion services. The use of personal narrative in the MacQuarrie Report and its relative success in achieving reproductive justice for women in P.E.I. can be used as a model for providing better access to abortion services for Indigenous women in Canada. Critical Race Theory and its use of personal narrative as a tool of legal analysis should be used to capture the lived experiences of Indigenous women in Canada because it has the potential to raise consciousness and awareness, amplify and validate issues of access to abortion services, and help to unite Indigenous women over their similarly-shared experiences. This cannot only lead to a stronger coalition to fight for reproductive justice for Indigenous women in Canada, but can also provide a way for Indigenous women in Canada to challenge and expand legal doctrine in a way that includes greater access to abortion services.


In this paper, I use the term “Indigenous women” to include First Nations', Métis, and Inuit women. I chose to use the term “Indigenous” out of respect for and acknowledgment of the preferences of most First Nation, Métis, and Inuit individuals.


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Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

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