I need to draw you to a very important issue that is occurring in the Canadian province of New Brunswick that is contradictory, horrifying and a violation of Canadian human rights.
Dr. Henry Morgentaler (1923-2013) played a massive role in legalizing abortion in Canada. He was one of the first doctors in Canada to perform vasectomies, insert IUD’s and provide birth control to unmarried women. In 1969 Morgentaler opened his first abortion clinic in Montreal, Quebec and was the first doctor in North America to use vacuum aspiration. He opened 20 clinics across Canada and has trained more than 100 doctors. Morgentaler, in 1988, challenged the federal abortion law and won and in 2008 he was awarded the Order of Canada.
Now, one of his clinics in New Brunswick is closing in July of this year and the provincial government is doing NOTHING to prevent the closing. The Morgentaler abortion clinic has been battling with the province’s Department of Health for 20 years over funding (the clinic has been forced to pursue private funds). It is the lack of funds that is causing the clinic to close. This New Brunswick abortion clinic is the ONLY private abortion clinic NOT covered by provincial medicare. The Morgentaler clinic in New Brunswick is the only abortion clinic in New Brunswick (excluding hospitals, more on that later) and also serves most of the Atlantic provinces (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island) and the most eastern places in Quebec.
The closing of the clinic is especially infuriating because abortion is LEGAL in Canada. The issue begins when you get down to the provincial level because that is where the decisions about healthcare are made. You can find abortion clinics/services all across Canada but the access to those clinics/services is the major problem. If the province doesn’t believe abortions should receive any level of priority then there is no or limited funding. Also, it is the province that decides on the eligibility criteria, who can and cannot access abortions.
One might think that the closing of the Morgentaler clinic would still leave the girls and women of New Brunswick with options since hospitals are able to provide the service. But, provincial medicare will only fund MEDICALLY NECESSARY abortions and needs to be signed off for by TWO doctors. This poses many problems: what about women who are not medically at risk but want an abortion, women who do not have a doctor (let alone two) and women who have anti-choice doctors? What do they do then? Travelling might not be an option for many and it shouldn’t have to be done.
The New Brunswick government needs to change. It needs to understand the importance of abortion services to girls, women and families and I believe that they need to reevaluate their understanding of human rights and Canada’s healthcare policy.