by Sorcha Beirne
April 10th was a sad day for many New Brunswickers, as the Morgentaler Clinic announced it’s plans to close in July due to lack of government funding during an early morning press conference. This was an announcement that many knew would have to come someday, as the provincial government had been refusing funding for years.
Exactly a week later, on April 17th, over 500 people protested in front of the New Brunswick legislative building. The rally was organized by the Fredericton Youth Feminists and became known as A Rally for Our Right to Accessible Abortion. Protesters demanded a repeal of regulation 84-20, which states that abortions may only be covered in hospitals if deemed “medically necessary” in writing by two doctors, and demanded funding for the Morgentaler Clinic.
The legislature security fenced off the steps to the building, not allowing speakers to stand where originally planned. Speakers ended up having to use a step-stool. The protesters booed at the legislature when they heard this, screaming that it’s our building too. Among the speakers were NDP leader, Dominic Cardy; and Green Party leader, David Coon; who both showed their support for the cause and both agreed that the New Brunswick Premier, David Alward, could remove the regulation with the stroke of a pen.
Liberal leader Brian Gallant, agreed that he thought the two doctor rule was excessive and said he was encouraging the government to review the regulation. Protesters let out screams of “Not enough!”, “Repeal, not review” and booed at the leader. He left immediately after his speech, not staying for the rest of the rally.
People drove to the rally from all over New Brunswick and even other provinces like Nova Scotia and PEI. Colleen MacQuarrie, a researcher for the University of PEI, spoke about how the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic affected access in PEI, as there are no hospitals or clinics that provide abortion services in the province.
The rally-goers held signs and coat hangers in the air as they listened to speeches, many getting emotional. Before leaving, many left their signs on the lawn and hung coat hangers with messages for the legislature on the fence. Protesters wore pins with the rally’s slogan “We have the law, we need the access.” and tweeted during the event with #NBProchoice. The rally made it clear that there is a strong, powerful support for abortion access in New Brunswick and that the provincial government will not be able to stay silent forever.