N.B. government faces more calls to change abortion regulations
Kevin Bissett, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Friday, April 11, 2014 3:20PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, April 11, 2014 7:59PM ADT
FREDERICTON -- The president of the U.S.-based National Abortion Federation says the New Brunswick government should change its regulations on abortion after the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton announced plans to close this summer.
Vicki Saporta said restrictions on access to the procedure in New Brunswick rival other jurisdictions in North America.
"Even as restrictive as some states in the United States are becoming, New Brunswick is still more restrictive," she said Friday from Washington, D.C.
She said there are no states that limit the provision of abortion care to obstetricians and gynecologists, that require two doctors to certify the procedure as medically necessary in writing and that mandate first trimester abortions be done in a hospital.
Those restrictions are in place in New Brunswick under Regulation 84-20 in the Medical Services Payment Act.
Saporta's comments come a day after the Morgentaler Clinic announced it would close its doors at the end of July after 20 years of seeing between 600 and 700 women annually. Manager Simone Leibovitch said the clinic was losing money and could not continue to provide abortions that aren't publicly funded.
Saporta said the New Brunswick government needs to repeal the current restrictions and provide abortions in hospitals across the province. She said she knows of doctors willing to perform the procedure.
"It is incumbent upon the government of New Brunswick to operate within the Constitution of Canada and provide publicly funded abortion as required by Health Canada," said Saporta, whose federation is the professional association of abortion practitioners in North America.
Two opposition parties stepped up pressure on the government on Friday as well.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy asked the government and the Opposition Liberals to consider a motion to rescind Regulation 84-20.
"If they choose not to do that, it's a clear indication to the women of this province that they are not serious about reproductive health issues, they're not serious about a woman's right to choose, and most importantly they're not serious about upholding Canadian federal law as decided by the Supreme Court of Canada," Cardy said.
Green party Leader David Coon said the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic underscores the need for the government to quickly change the regulation.
"It's unfair and unjust. It creates restrictions that women nowhere else in Canada have to put up with," Coon said.
There should be discussion in the legislature, he said, adding that Premier David Alward could make changes to the regulation quickly with just the stroke of a pen.
Alward again deflected questions on the issue Friday, saying he couldn't discuss a matter before the courts.
Asked what he thought would be the general opinion of New Brunswickers on the issue, he replied: "That's neither here nor there. It's a legal issue that is before the courts, so at this point in time that is where it's at."
In 2002, Dr. Henry Morgentaler launched a lawsuit to force the province to pay for the procedure at clinics, but the case has been in limbo since Morgentaler died last May.
Pro-abortion supporters gather outside the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton after it was announced the facility would be closing. (CTV Atlantic)