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.
Here are three things you can do right now:
- Sign the Change.Org petition calling on the government to fund services at the Morgentaler Clinic
- Tweet a message of support using the #NBProChoice hashtag
- Write a letter to your Member of Parliament (find out their contact info here). You can use this sample letter drafted by a local activist and former clinic volunteer, but if you can, it’s best to rephrase in your own words so your MP knows you care personally about this issue enough to take the time to write.
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:
- It is performed in a hospital by a specialist in the field of obstetrics or gynaecology and that
- Two doctors have certified in writing that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’.
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. Read more