New Brunswick’s PC government removed the thrust of an opposition motion calling on the province to fund surgical abortions outside of the province’s hospitals on Thursday.
Currently, abortions are only funded by the provincial government at three locations: two hospitals in Moncton and one hospital in Bathurst, locations that critics say limit accessibility for those who need the procedure.
Clinic 554, which has already partially shut down as a result of a lack of funding, performed surgical abortions and also functioned as a family practice and resource centre for LGBTQ2 patients across the province.
New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that does not fund abortions outside of hospitals.
Isabelle Thériault, Liberal MLA for Caraquet who tabled the initial motion, says the status quo violates the rights of women in New Brunswick.
“It is a twilight zone, honestly. I am coming here in 2020 to debate about reproductive health — it blows my mind,” she said on Thursday.
She pleaded for the nine PC MLAs to support her motion.
“I hope that the women here who have gone into politics did it to advance the cause of women. Otherwise, what are we doing here?” she said.
Clinic 554 shuts down after months of advocacy efforts for abortion rights
But PC MLAs voted to remove references to Clinic 554 and the repeal of Regulation 84-20. Instead, they substituted it for a request to the province’s two health authorities to look at whether the province’s current abortion access complies with the Canada Health Act.
The federal government has repeatedly said the status quo violates the act.
Ottawa had reduced the Canada Health Transfer to New Brunswick by $140,216, as a result of patient charges for abortion services provided outside of hospitals in 2017.
Funding was only temporarily restored as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressure it placed on the health-care system.
Other organizations have asked the province to fund abortions at Clinic 554, including one of the health authorities the province asked to examine the status of abortion access.
The board of Horizon Health passed a motion in Oct. 2019 that supported the clinic, saying the board would “advocate to the government of New Brunswick for payment to physicians to provide abortion services in a quality and safe environment outside of hospitals.”
The provincial government did not act on the motion.
A civil liberties group has a lawsuit in the works challenging the province’s lack of access to abortion.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association sent a letter dated Oct. 29 and statement of claim to the province’s attorney general.
Michael Bryant, the group’s executive director, told the Canadian Press at the time that the organization wants the province to repeal its regulations on abortion and give wider access to the procedure.
“We gave the government the chance to do the right thing but sadly they have given us no other option,” he said.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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