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Editorials Globe editorial: Nova Scotia, like the other Maritime provinces, needs to make abortion more accessible

Even before 1988, when the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion laws, women could get the procedure performed. Doing so was an ordeal, though. It meant knowing a sympathetic doctor, or having access to an illegal clinic. It was a process steeped in shame, secrecy and danger.

For too many Canadian women, especially in the Maritimes, unfair barriers still apply. That fact was brought home by Jessica Leeder’s essay, published Saturday in The Globe and Mail, about trying to get an abortion in Nova Scotia.

Ms. Leeder, The Globe’s Atlantic Canada correspondent, is a married, 36-year-old mother of two, and is skilled at researching and understanding government policy.

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But even she found the process of seeking an abortion in her adoptive home province to be prohibitively difficult. In the end, she flew to Toronto for the procedure.

Her report depicts the degree to which access to abortion varies by region, and demonstrates that there are still many hurdles in the Maritimes that would surprise women living in Toronto or Montreal. Consider just these three.

In Nova Scotia, ultrasounds, often required before an abortion, are only performed by hospital radiology departments. That can mean long wait times – more than an inconvenience, given that having an abortion before the eighth week of pregnancy is the safest route.

While the province’s health website says abortion is available in Nova Scotia between six and 12 weeks, doctors are rarely able to provide it before eight weeks.

New Brunswick does not cover the cost of abortions performed outside of hospitals, forcing women to choose between paying to have the procedure done quickly, or waiting. This forces low-income women into a difficult dilemma.

There have been recent improvements. In 2017, abortion became available in Prince Edward Island for the first time since 1982. Nova Scotia no longer requires a family-doctor referral for women seeking the procedure in hospitals.

But if it’s not exactly 1987 in the Maritimes, it doesn’t feel like it’s 2018, either. That’s not fair. It’s time for those provinces to join this century.

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