Thursday, 24 April 2014

Canada Health Act: Then and Now, Nfld and NB

I have a question.

In this piece about what soon may be the only abortion clinic east of Montreal, the Athena Health Centre in St John's, there's this bit of history (emphasis mine).
According to a 1998 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, from the time the St. John’s Morgentaler clinic opened until 1993 the out-of-pocket cost for a woman having an abortion ranged from $400-$750, despite the fact abortion was covered by the Canada Health Act as a medically necessary procedure. In ’93, however, the province began paying the salaries of physicians at the Morgentaler clinic, enabling the clinic to reduce its fees. Then, in 1995, the federal government began forcing the provinces to cover the full cost of abortions for those eligible for provincial health care, and by 1998 the Government of Newfoundland was fully funding the medical service. The cost to the province today is about $1,000 per procedure.
The federal government began forcing provinces to fund abortion in 1995, yet somehow the memo to New Brunswick got lost in a time warp?

Now, nearly 20 years later, New Brunswick STILL hasn't got the message?

Alternatively, why did the 1995 feds force Newfoundland but somehow overlook New Brunswick?

Students of inequality and misogyny in Canada would like to know.


Anonymous said...

In 1995 the Liberal government tried to take a stand against the proliferation of private clinics by penalizing provinces that allowed clinics to provide normally insured services but charged the costs to patients rather than the government. It was a good call and abortion clinics benefited by the move. Alberta and Newfoundland began contracting with the abortion clinics but Quebec and New Brunswick ignored the directive. There was no way the feds were going to pick a fight with Quebec and who knows if they even decreased health care payments to that province as they did to Alberta and Newfoundland. NB only had one private clinic, the Morgentaler Clinic, that didn't generate much income, so withholding an equal amount to what they earned (which was the penalty forumla) didn't hurt them. Within a couple years the whole thing seemed to fizzle out and there was never anymore pressure put on these provinces to buck up. Then of course the Harper government came along and there was no hope after that. "Quebec didn't start funding clinic abortions until the class action suit was settled a few years , leaving NB as the sole province that continued to refuse to fund clinic abortions One thing no one mentions in this struggle around NB is that they not only refuse to fund clinic abortions for their residents or provide adequate hospital services, but they also refuse to take abortion off the list of exluded services in the interprovincial billing agreements. This means women from all provinces who have recently moved or are going to school out of province or temporarily relocated in another province for work, cannot get a funded abortion there. They have to pay out of pocket or travel to their home province to get a funded abortion. It's pure and simple disenfranchisement of pregnant women if they cannot continue their pregnancies and it's the fault of the small minds in the NB government who refuse to agree to get it off the list. There has to unanimous agreement on this interprovincial committee to change anything within the agreement and NB and PEI have been the stumbling block, refusing to remove it. The list itself is short, and abortion is the only procedure on it that is emergent and only effects women. For this reason, women across Canada need to get angry and force NB and PEI to honour the reproductive rights of women.

choice joyce said...

I wouldn't say the feds "forced" the provinces, it was more like "instructed". The Health Minister at the time (Diane Marleau) sent a letter to all provinces and territories. It wasn't about abortion clinics specifically, the feds told them to start fully funding private clinics that provide medically required services. (I have the letter and other associated docs in hardcopy but it's not online anywhere so I'm going to scan it and post it on a new site we're creating for NB.)

As far as I know, Alberta was the only province that responded to the letter (in writing anyway), and they started funding abortion clinics at some point after that. Not sure what 'enforcement' measures the feds used for other provinces, probably not much. Health Minister Dosanjh started an arbitration process with NB though around 2004/5, which was in full swing when the Libs lost the election, but of course the Cons quickly put a stop to it.

fern hill said...

Thank you, Anonymous and choice joyce. As usual, and especially with anything related to abortion, the situation is more complicated than it might seem.

Women across Canada need to get involved in this fight and in the fight to come in PEI.

As society becomes more mobile, it becomes even more important that services are uniform everywhere.

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