by Jarrah Hodge
Today the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick announced it will be forced to close its doors at the end of July, after a 20-year long battle with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding it should be entitled to under the Canada Health Act.
This will seriously jeopardize the already limited access to reproductive health care in New Brunswick and PEI, putting lives at risk.
Activists are already starting to organize to call on the provincial and federal governments to save the clinic and deal with some of the larger issues that have led to this situation. Here at Gender Focus we know how important these services are to people in Atlantic Canada and we’ll keep you posted on how you can show your support.
4. (Added April 11) Take a picture of yourself with a message of solidarity for the NB Pro Choice Tumblr.
And keep checking back to our website for updates and more ways to help. Another good resource to stay up-to-date is the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada site.
Here is the press release from the clinic with more of the background:
FREDERICTON MORGENTALER CLINIC – BACKGROUNDER
From the moment Dr. Morgentaler announced his intention to open an abortion clinic in Fredericton, the provincial government planned to thwart his efforts. The premier at the time, Frank McKenna, stated that: “if Mr. Morgentaler tries to open a clinic in the province of New Brunswick, he’s going to get the fight of his life.” Subsequent New Brunswick governments have continued to block access to abortion services in New Brunswick.
Dr. Morgentaler was immune to their threats. He had already survived jail, threats against his life and the bombing of his Toronto clinic. The actions of the N.B. government only served to strengthen his resolve to ensure that New Brunswick women would have access to safe abortion care in his clinic and that no woman would be turned away regardless of her ability to pay. The Morgentaler Clinic opened in June, 1994 and since then has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women in a non-judgmental, evidence based, and professional environment.
The main obstacle the New Brunswick government created for New Brunswick women who needed to access abortions was, and still is, Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1). It states that an abortion will only be covered by Medicare if:
Note: The federal government or the courts have never defined what ‘medically necessary’ means, other than the circular definition in the Canada Health Act – “medically necessary is that which is physician performed”. The provinces decide what is medically necessary under the Act, by creating a list of insured services, which are then automatically deemed medically necessary. With respect to abortion it does not mean ‘only if there is a threat to the mother or the foetus’. New Brunswick acknowledges that abortion is a ‘medically necessary’ procedure by permitting abortions in some hospitals. The same definition applies to clinics.
The practical consequence of this regulation is that, unlike in any other Canadian province with stand-alone clinics, abortions provided at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton are not funded by Medicare.
Many women who need to access abortions at the Clinic cannot pay. Most financial support comes directly from the Clinic. The National Abortion Federation provides limited financial support. The amount of financial assistance provided by the Clinic speaks eloquently to the impact Regulation 84-20 has on women living on assistance, single family mothers in minimum wage jobs, students with no income, and women living in abusive relationships.
After 20 years, the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic will be closing its doors. Regulation 84-20 remains on the books and New Brunswick women will now have no option to access abortions in the province except by meeting its discriminatory and medically unjustifiable requirements.
Had the province provided funding for clinic abortions, or paid for abortions for women without ability to pay, the Clinic would not be closing. To make matters worse, Regulation 84-20 makes it impossible for the majority of New Brunswick women to access an abortion in one of the two hospitals where this service is provided. Here’s why:
The Morgentaler Clinic is closing for the following reasons:
WHAT THE CLOSURE MEANS FOR NEW BRUNSWICK WOMEN
Most women will not be able to access a publicly funded hospital abortion in New Brunswick. The only option is for them to travel out of province to clinics in Quebec, Ontario or Maine. If they cannot pay $700.00 today in New Brunswick, it is unlikely they will be able to find the money to travel out of province, pay for the abortion plus the costs of a hotel, meals, and childcare expenses. And, because New Brunswick excludes abortion from inter-provincial reciprocal billing, any woman who resides in New Brunswick that goes to another province will have to pay herself. If she moves to another province and requires an abortion, she will pay out of pocket until she establishes permanent residency in the other province. Women who are already over the clinic’s 16 week limit will lose the clinic’s assistance in getting access to services in other provinces where abortions over 16 weeks are performed.
The New Brunswick government should join the rest of Canada. The government must repeal Regulation 84/20. They enacted it with the stroke of a pen, they can take it away with the stroke of a pen. There needs to be improved access to hospitals throughout the province. The women of New Brunswick should receive the same care as women elsewhere in Canada when it comes to their reproductive health. The denial of abortion services is an abuse of power and demonstrates a blatant lack of concern for the health of women. Concerns have already been raised about women checking on the internet for solutions to an unplanned pregnancy. Do we really want to go back to the days when women died from botched or self-induced abortions?
The government must designate and fund multiple access points across the province where women can find reliable and comprehensive information they need when considering whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. These access points must offer information in confidence and in a non-judgmental manner. The public health care consequences of leaving women at the mercy of anti-choice misinformation and harassment will otherwise be devastating.
Dr. Morgentaler’s motto was “Every Mother A Willing Mother; Every Child a Wanted Child”. If he could make this possible for women and their families, surely the Government of New Brunswick can do the same.
For further information contact: Simone Leibovitch, Clinic Manager 451-5060