All (?) provincial health ministries run handy tele-health lines with supposedly trained professionals ready to answer your questions with good, up-to-date info. In New Brunswick, this service is called Telecare.
Back in April, when we learned that the only private abortion clinic east of Montreal was closing, we predicted that there'd be some unintended consequences for the NB and PEI governments, both of which have stupid and illegal rigamaroles for abortion services.
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.
So what will the governments of NB and PEI say to women now?
Well, now we know.
Telecare NB is referring patients who need medical advice to anti-choice religious counsellors. (From Radio-Canada, via Google translation checked and improved by deBeauxO.)
Women who contacted the organization Telecare for information on abortion services in New Brunswick, claim that they were directed to pro-life services.
Telecare is an information and advice line on health within the Ministry of Health of New Brunswick.
Learning of the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic, Marilyn Merritt-Gray, a retired nurse, wanted to know what abortion services remain available.
She called Telecare, claiming that her daughter wanted an abortion.
The person who answered her call found in the system an organization which, it was explained to her, provides services to women facing an unwanted pregnancy.
It was BirthRight, a pro-life organization.
"I was shocked and angry! "- Marilyn Merritt-Gray, retired nurse.
Other women were given the same reference that Marilyn Merritt Gray received.
BirthRight offers free pregnancy tests, psychological support, housing help, transportation, child education, or assistance in finding a doctor.
But the organization will not present abortion as one of the possible options.
The Department of Health says an audit of the situation is underway.
According to Jaden Fitzherbert*, other women were referred not only to Birthright, but to CPCs (aka fake abortion clinics) in St John and Moncton.
Birthright is a bit different from other fake clinics in that it "has a philosophy of avoiding direct involvement in pro-life or pro-choice political advocacy."
The other two are forthrightly religious and up to their eyeballs in anti-choice activism, most notably as big players in the March For Life bunfest organized by New Brunswick Right to Life, located conveeeeniently adjacent to the Morgentaler Clinic.
Whether avowedly religious or not, all share a rabid anti-choice position and no medical qualifications whatsoever.
So, call a government agency looking for healthcare information and get directed to faith-based propaganda, masquerading as "counselling."
It's very like the situation commenter Beijing York related here, on a post on whether MDs should be allowed to let their religion trump patient care.
I brought up an example from personal experience where I suspected that I needed a psychiatrist and was told to seek a pastor or priest for guidance by the replacement physician at my on campus clinic.
It's shocking, insulting, and (bitterly) laughable. But completely predictable.
The New Brunswick government was and is totally unprepared to deal with the fallout from shutting off its only abortion safety valve. Its idiotic rules created the Morgentaler Clinic and those rules eventually closed it.
And now they're up shit creek.
In May, a new organization, Reproductive Justice New Brunswick attempted to warn NB lawmakers of the impending crisis.
Did they take any notice? Make any preparations? Obviously not.
I don't know what Reproductive Justice NB plans next, but if I were involved, I'd be organizing a raft of questions for Telecare operators, to be recorded for future reference (recording telephone calls is legal in Canada if one party -- in this case the caller -- knows about the recording).
Some questions for the Teleccare operators.
1. Is abortion legal in New Brunswick?
2. Is abortion covered under provincial health insurance?
3. How do I access this service?
4. Can you direct me to medically correct information on types of abortion and what to expect?
And so on.
If the government of New Brunswick gets away with this, what's next? Sending schizophrenic patients to exorcists? Referring patients for leeching?
*And why the heck is Radio-Canada the only media organization on this? Even there, there's a bit of a mystery. An earlier story appeared then disappeared, but not before an eagle-eyed ally nabbed it and ran it through Google Translate.
Abortion in NB: women looking for information are directed to pro-life clinics Updated Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 10 am PDT 02 Women who contacted the organization Telecare for information on abortion services in New Brunswick, argue that they were directed to pro-life clinics. Telecare is an information and advice line on health within the Ministry of Health of New Brunswick. Jaden Fitzherbert contacted Telecare, she was sent to three organizations openly pro-life without giving any information about the services available abortion. Number Birthright, among others, suggested to the young woman. Birthright is pro-life organization says, but does not advocate for the cause. More details to come.Which raises an interesting question: Are other media being muzzled? Does the Progressive Conservative Government of David Alward have a now not-so-hidden agenda on abortion?
ADDED, June 21/14: Here are the details of Jaden Fitzherbert's research.
ADDED, June 23/14: Where to get accurate info on abortion in New Brunswick.
UPDATE (July 4/14): There is now a crowdsourcing effort to at least continue the lease on the clinic. A first step in taking back control of women's rights in NB.
UPDATE (July 23/14): Informal poll on provincial health hotlines. Mostly acceptable. Only in New Brunswick (big surprise), Nova Scotia, and Manitoba do telehealth operators refer people seeking information on abortion to "fake clinics."