Friday, 11 April 2014

Abortion in New Brunswick: It's Time

By now you've heard that the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton (one of only two abortion clinics east of Montreal!) is closing. CBC report and Al Jazeera report with photos and tweets.

What I hadn't realized is that New Brunswick is the original home of the TRAP law. TRAP (Targetted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are increasingly common in the abortion wars in the US.

But New Brunswick blazed a trail, legislating against ONE SPECIFIC CLINIC.

From the press release by the clinic:
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:
1. It is performed in a hospital by a specialist in the field of obstetrics or gynaecology and that
2. Two doctors have certified in writing that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’.
(Note that NB has never bothered to define "medically necessary." Read the whole press release for the history of their struggles and the heroic contributions of Dr Morgentaler. Also, DJ! has been covering the clinic's travails for years.)

So. Hats off to the innovative fetus fetishists of New Brunswick!

The deranged anti-choicers, rather than celebrating, are suspicious. They think the closure announcement is a stunt. Well, they don't want to dry up all those tasty donations, do they?

While it's idiotic to think of this desperate measure as a stunt, I think it will have serious unintended consequences that both the governments of NB and PEI (10% of abortions done at the Fredericton clinic are for women from PEI, where abortions are simply NOT DONE) will have to deal with.

The Morgentaler Clinic acted as a safety valve. For women who could afford it and arrange the travel, time off work, child care etc, the clinic provided an "out" for these two governments.

Fine, they could say, you want a "non-medical" abortion? Go to Morgentaler's and pay for it yourself.

Not anymore.

So what will the governments of NB and PEI say to women now?

Will this be the wake-up call for women and their allies previously shamed into silence? Will this be the rallying point for pro-choicers across the country to demand that ALL Canadian women get equal access to health care?

I hope so.

Now for the public service part of this blog post.

Here's a petition to sign. Now at over 6400 signatures, when I signed yesterday, it was just over 3000.

Next, here's a list of NB legislators with email addresses for letter writing.

And here's a blogpost by a former clinic worker, Pedgehog, with her own insights and suggestions.

It's time. Let's drag New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island into the 21st century.

UPDATE: There's an election in NB this year. Looks like Liberal Leader is "softening" support for government 2-doctor policy without actually coming out in support of repeal of the regulations.

UPPITY-DATER: There's a rally next Thursday, April 17. 2,000 already confirmed.

MORE: There's NBProchoice tumblr. Upload a picture.

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