Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic Forced To Close. How You Can Help.

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby 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:


  1. Sign the Change.Org petition calling on the government to fund services at the Morgentaler Clinic
  2. Tweet a message of support using the #NBProChoice hashtag
  3. 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:


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

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 3 Comments

Celebrating 25 Years of Decriminalized Abortion in Canada

prochoiceLast week American feminists and pro-choice activists celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and on Monday January 28, Canadians will mark the 25th anniversary of the R. v. Morgentaler decision, which decriminalized abortion in Canada. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the case, there is a detailed timeline here.

In brief, Dr. Henry Morgentaler had been providing abortions, which were illegal under Section 251 of the Criminal Code, since 1968. In 1969 there was a change to the law which allowed for abortions in very limited circumstances: at a hospital with a Therapeutic Abortion Committee (panel of doctors) who could approve and perform abortions if a woman’s life or health was at risk. The change was unevenly implemented and women waited an average of eight weeks to access an abortion.

After years of legal battles, Morgentaler’s most recent case (he and two other doctors were arrested in 1983 for performing illegal abortions at a Toronto clinic) came to the Supreme Court of Canada, and on January 28th the abortion law was found to violate section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it infringes upon a woman’s right to life, liberty, and security of the person (a contrast to Roe, which was based on a woman’s right to privacy).

The decision was and is a big deal. In a statement of support, Anand Grover, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Health, said,In decriminalizing abortion, R v. Morgentaler upheld these principles as crucial to women’s reproductive freedom and autonomy. It recognised the fundamental right of a women to make decisions concerning her own body, ushering in an era of equality, dignity and freedom for women in Canada.”

Events will be held across the country to celebrate and reflect on the significance of the ruling. And the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has set up a website – – that’s full of great background and facts about the struggle for abortion rights from the 1960s to today. I encourage you to check it out and send a congratulatory message to Dr. Morgentaler.

I wasn’t yet born when Roe v. Wade was decided. And I was only two years old at the time of the Morgentaler decision, but I am so grateful for the work that was done so that I and other women of my generation could have safe access to the full range of reproductive health care. I value these anniversaries and the opportunity they provide to hear the stories of those who struggled for women’s rights long before the recent “War on Women”. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Woodworth’s Attacks on Abortion Rights Challenge Harper to Step Up

Canadian House of CommonsJosey Ross is an anti-violence worker and reproductive justice activist living in Vancouver. She has an embarrassing and uncontainable love of small dogs but fears corgis.

The abortion debate is over in Canada. We won. Stop worrying so much.

This is what I kept hearing as I was beginning to write my Honours thesis, which looked at anti-choice legislation in Canada. And it’s partly true. We won. Oh boy did we win. Unlike in the U.S. where the increasingly fragile Roe v. Wade decision is based on an easily trump-able right to privacy, women’s right to abortion in Canada is predicated on security of the person.

Since the Morgantaler decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988, precisely zero laws have been passed that regulate or prohibit abortion. However, there have been nearly 40 bills and motions introduced that sought to limit or prohibit abortion. In 1991 women’s right to bodily autonomy was maintained by a single vote when it tied in Senate.

And while I’m confident that Bill C-43 would have been deemed unconstitutional if not for that single vote, it would have been a nightmare. And it would have been women who paid the steep price of years of legal wrangling.

Conservative misogynist (or “pro-lifer” as he seems to prefer) Stephen Woodworth is using a well-worn tactic to attack abortion rights from the side. Focusing on personhood arguments neatly skirts the existence of the gestational vehicle otherwise known as a woman. Read more

Posted on by Josey Ross in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 3 Comments

Remembering Dr. Robert Kinch

This post, by Roxanna Bennett, was originally posted at Feminists for Choice.

The name Dr. Henry Morgentaler is synonymous with pro-choice in Canada, but Dr. Robert Kinch was also instrumental in securing women’s rights as his colleague. Born in Iraq in 1920, Dr. Kinch immigrated to Canada with his family in 1949 after seeing a billboard advertising “Ontario Wants You.”

Dr. Kinch launched his career as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Toronto. In 1968 he moved to Montreal as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill University, eventually becoming chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Royal Victoria and Montreal General hospitals. He was appointed chairman of the Department of Obstetrics of Gynecology at McGill in 1979.

Beloved by his patients, Dr. Kinch delivered thousands of babies while determinedly championing maternal health and the advancement of sexual education.

In the early 1970’s abortion was decriminalized but could only be performed for therapeutic reasons after a committee agreed that a termination was necessary for the health of the mother. Dr. Kinch created a therapeutic action committee at Montreal General hospital, earning him the distasteful moniker of “Kinch the Killer” by anti-choice activists who picketed the hospital. Undeterred, Dr. Kinch helped to establish one of the first family planning centres in Montreal, providing access to birth control, pregnancy termination and counseling on other health matters to women.

Retired vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada André Lalonde is quoted as saying of Dr. Kinch: “He was pro-choice and advocated for changes in Canada, offering training to future generations of professionals.”

In the late 1980’s Dr. Kinch became divisional chief of maternal-fetal medicine University of Texas Medical Branch. Several years later he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, accepting a similar position. In 1998 he returned to McGill University, continuing his practice and teaching part-time. Shortly after, a fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynecology was created in his name.

A passionate educator, Dr. Kinch taught until he retired at the age of 86. Dedicated to furthering education in obstetrics and gynecology, former graduates of Dr. Kinch are the chairs of departments of gynecology and obstetrics at eight different Canadian universities, a singular distinction of Dr. Kinch.

Dr. Kinch remained active in the medical clinics of his community and as an educator wrote sexual education curriculum for schools in Ontario. “He introduced sexual health training when it was taboo in all medical schools [because] he saw the need and responded.” Lalonde says.

Internationally recognized as a champion of women’s health and reproductive rights and as a leader in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Robert Kinch leaves behind a profound legacy of integrity and compassion. He died of natural causes on July 22, 2011, at the age of 91.


Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment