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Women’s advocates to publish resource guide to accessing abortion in Nova Scotia

File - A protester holds a pro-choice sign at Victoria Park, in Halifax, during a demonstration for access to abortion services on the one-year anniversary of the death of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, May 29, 2014.
File - A protester holds a pro-choice sign at Victoria Park, in Halifax, during a demonstration for access to abortion services on the one-year anniversary of the death of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, May 29, 2014. Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press

An organization dedicated to protecting the legal rights of women in Canada is set to publish a resource guide to abortion in Nova Scotia on Monday.

“It summarizes the law on access to abortion and reproductive choice in a really easy-to-read, 17-page little guide,” said Sarah Baddeley, the Halifax chair of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) in an interview on Sunday.

“The goal is to make sure that we are clear and transparent about what the law is in Canada and to give people a resource in navigating the medical system.”

In Canada, abortion has functioned at the intersection of criminal law — governed by the federal government — and health laws — which are administered by the provinces.

There haven’t been any criminal laws with respect to abortion in Canada since 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a series of provisions in the Criminal Code.

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READ MORE: Access to abortion pill still an issue in Nova Scotia, says advocates

Nova Scotia’s government began funding Mifegymiso, better known as the abortion pill, in November 2017.  The province also eliminated the need for a physician referral for an abortion, giving Nova Scotians the option to self-refer for the procedure.

But even with those improvements, advocates say the ability to access abortion remains an issue in the province.

For instance, the first ultrasound machine in the province purchased with the goal of helping to date pregnancies sat idle despite a fundraising campaign that collected $60,000 to purchase the tool.

Campaign re-affirmed after pro-life billboard in Dartmouth

Baddley says the campaign to produce the guide has been in the works for a while, but that the appearance of a pro-life billboard in Dartmouth last year “solidified” the need for the information to be made available to the public.

The billboard, which read “Canada has no abortion laws” swiftly drew condemnation from health organizations, including LEAF.

“Members of the public and even fellow advocates were sure that there was a right to access abortion in Nova Scotia but weren’t exactly sure of the exact legal framework and the vocabulary to assist patients in navigating the medical system,” said Baddeley.

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WATCH: Anti-abortion billboard raising concerns in Dartmouth

Click to play video: 'Anti-abortion billboard raising concerns in Dartmouth'
Anti-abortion billboard raising concerns in Dartmouth

The guide will be available digitally at the LEAF website, while hard copies will be available through the organization.

LEAF is hosting a happy hour event at East of Grafton Tavern on Argyle Street from 5:30 p.m., to 7:30 p.m., on Monday to mark the launch of the project.

“We’re ready to get [the guide] in the hands of our fellow advocates and members of the public and it’s also an opportunity for us to celebrate the progress we’ve had in Nova Scotia for reproductive justice in the last few years,” said Baddeley
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— With files from Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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