ACADIE NOUVELLE (New Brunswick) – It is not easy to campaign for the right to abortion in New Brunswick. More than 30 years after legalization, women still have to fight for better access. And face the police sent to put a spade in their wheels.
François Gravel – New Acadia
There aren’t many medical procedures in New Brunswick where francophones are better served than anglophones. Abortion is one of them.
It is possible to undergo a voluntary termination of pregnancy in the hospitals of Bathurst and Dr-Georges-L.-Dumont, which means that a good part of the Acadian population has access to the procedure within an hour’s drive. .
For its part, the Horizon Health Network only offers service in one hospital: the Moncton Hospital. It is not possible for a woman to have an abortion in hospitals in Saint John and Fredericton.
However, Clinic 554 offers the service in the capital, but the women have to pay out of their own pocket (from $ 700 to $ 850). They will not be reimbursed by health insurance.
Faced with the imminent closure of the clinic, demonstrators went to the Legislative Assembly on Friday to denounce this situation. They intended to spend the night there. It was at this time that the police arrived to seize their tents, under the pretext that it was forbidden to camp on the grounds of the legislature.
The directive came from the sergeant-at-arms, after being approved by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Liberal MP for Restigouche-Chaleur Daniel Guitard.
As is often the case, the pretext of public safety was used. Obviously, the women were not there to go camping and no one was in danger. A Speaker of the Legislature with the least judgment would have understood this and would not approve of a police intervention like this.
This incident should not obscure the heart of the problem, namely Regulation 84-20, which provides that abortions performed outside mandated hospitals are not covered by medicare.
It is because of this directive that only one clinic offers abortions in New Brunswick and that it is threatened with closure. Without Medicare coverage, it is not profitable.
Premier Blaine Higgs could remove this restriction with the stroke of a pen, without even having to pass a bill. He refuses to do it, as before him Brian Gallant, David Alward and all their predecessors.
However, there are many medical procedures offered in clinics that are reimbursed by the Medicare program. Vasectomies, for example.
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Why two weights, two measures?
This regulation is part of New Brunswick’s long-term strategy to restrict access to abortion, along with the old rule of two doctors who had to give their approval before each abortion and which was finally repealed by the last Liberal government.
This is a discriminatory measure against women. It also goes against the Canada Health Act.
During the federal election campaign in 2019, Justin Trudeau promised to intervene. His government finally penalized New Brunswick … by withdrawing the sum of $ 140,216, which it then gave back because of the pandemic. Ridiculous.
Prime Minister Higgs is defending the status quo, like so many before him. He says access to abortion is sufficient.
Others have a different opinion. The Horizon Health Network Board of Directors has passed a motion directing the Government of New Brunswick to pay physicians who provide voluntary termination of pregnancy services in a safe environment outside of hospitals. The NB Medical Society shares the same position.
Will the Higgs government fold?
It’s unlikely. Pro-life rallies are used to hosting many Progressive Conservative MPs. Blaine Higgs himself had opposed the Gallant government’s decision to end the two-doctor rule in 2014.
With the Higgs government now in the majority, New Brunswick risks remaining the only province in Canada that refuses to reimburse the costs of the procedure when it takes place outside a hospital for a long time to come.
This indirect obstacle to the right of women to dispose of their bodies has no reason to exist. The refusal to cover pregnancy terminations in clinics has nothing to do with health or public finances. It is a discriminatory gesture against women.
It is an obstacle, one more, in a province where governments have never really accepted the legalization of abortion and do not lack the imagination to invent or maintain obstacles to it.