FREDERICTON -- The federal health minister committed $366,000 Tuesday for research on challenges women face accessing abortion in New Brunswick.

Patty Hajdu made the announcement in Fredericton, saying the study to be led by the University of New Brunswick will provide data for advocates to show the necessity of providing abortions at Clinic 554 in the provincial capital.

She says Ottawa would be outside of its jurisdiction if it directly increased funding for abortions at clinics, though she says the clinics and other abortion providers can apply for funding to help women with travel and other assistance to reach clinics.

New Brunswick law bans government funding for abortions conducted outside three approved hospitals -- two in Moncton and one in Bathurst -- and the province has refused funding for Clinic 554.

The provincial Progressive Conservative government of Blaine Higgs has accused Ottawa of attempting to turn abortion access into a federal election issue, and Higgs has said the Horizon Health Network -- which covers Fredericton -- doesn't think it is necessary to add abortion services in the province.

Hajdu said organizations such as the Fredericton clinic can apply for a share of Ottawa's recent budget commitment of $45 million for supports such as training materials, public awareness activities and travel and logistical support for people who could not otherwise access abortion services.

Dr. Adrian Edgar, medical director of Clinic 544, applauded the announcement, saying it will help the clinic paint a clearer picture to New Brunswickers of the need for the clinic's services.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2021.