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NDP leader pays a visit to struggling Clinic 554 in Fredericton
HALIFAX -- Clinic 554, Fredericton's only abortion clinic, is struggling to remain open as 2019 comes to a close.
As a resource many see as necessary, the risk of closure has not sat well with many people – including NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh – who flew from Ottawa on Saturday to show his support.
"I'm here to defend and protect this clinic," says Singh of the clinic, which was put on sale after it was deemed financially unsustainable as N.B. does not financially support abortions performed outside of hospitals.
"Our government demonstrates their lack of compassion, of understanding, of fairness, of justice and their unwillingness to agree that everyone should have equal access to healthcare," says Clinic 554 medical director, Dr. Adrian Edgar.
Meanwhile, Singh is asking the prime minister to back up his words – with actions.
"It’s not enough to say that you're a feminist, and not enough to say that you believe in a person's right to choose,” says Singh. “That is not sufficient. Really defending a right means defending access."
If the clinic were to close, women seeking access to abortions would be required to travel to Moncton or Bathurst – which Edgar says is unacceptable.
"Our premier, Mr. Higgs, believes it’s reasonable to ask a pregnant teen to make her way hundreds of kilometres to the nearest hospital where she can find someone to talk to about her healthcare," says Edgar.
Both Singh and Edgar are calling on the provincial government to fund the clinic.
"I’m also calling on the federal government to use the tools that we have to enforce a Canada Health Act,” says Singh. “Cause there's clearly a contravention of the Canada Health Act going on when this centre's not being funded."
In addition to abortion services, the closure would limit access to other services the clinic provides.
"It would affect LGBTQ+ people accessing abortions, as well as their ability to access basic and comprehensive healthcare," says Clinic 554 patient, Olivier Hebert.
Hebert notes the clinic is a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and the healthcare offered is specialized to their needs.
"I hope that this is not the case,” says Hebert. “But if it were to close, I do expect to see some pretty tragic outcomes."
As for the future of the clinic, Edgar says the clinic and its employees are taking it month by month.
Meanwhile, if the clinic does receive an offer from a buyer and accepts the offer, it must give patients 90 days’ notice before closing their doors. However, there are no offers currently being considered – leaving the clinic’s doors to remain open.