Abortion Crisis in New Brunswick
August 8, 2014 11:00 AM   Subscribe

On July 18, the only Morgentaler Clinic in New Brunswick closed. Its closure has an interesting backstory and has sparked a fight.

The clinic is not the only place in New Brunswick to receive abortions. There are two hospitals that will provide them. But as set out in law, they require written confirmation by 2 doctors that the abortion is medically necessary. Going to another province, or (formerly) going to the clinic, is not covered by Medicare. This regulation is strongly opposed.

Dr. Morgentaler, in 2002, challenged this regulation, arguing that the clinic should be reimbursed by the government, rather than paid by the clients. The government stonewalled, saying that Morgentaler didn't have standing to challenge the regulation. Although winning at every level of court, the government delayed, and in 2013, when Morgentaler died, the lawsuit was withdrawn.

For further history of the legal side of this fight, Professor Jula Hughes, of the University of New Brunswick, writes for the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies.

Back to the present day, Reproductive Justice NB conducted a fundraiser in July to re-open the clinic, and their efforts are ongoing. [auto-playing video] On their blog, Choix NB Choice, they posted a video explaining the situation, as well as a fact sheet [pdf] clarifying the issues. They also run a Tumblr featuring a mix of snark at the government, who have refused to seriously comment on the issue, snark at the Liberal opposition, who have called for "studies" on the situation, and love for solidarity protests around the country.

So what has the government being doing in the meantime? Well, it looks like their Tele-care line, where callers can get information from nurses, has been referring people asking about abortion to anti-abortion groups.

The clinic's closure in Fredericton has serious impacts on women nearby, but it is more serious than many other clinics, due to the problems of travel and rural access to abortion. Ms. Magazine looks at the impact on PEI women, who have no clinic and no hospital that will perform abortions, so who end up travelling to Fredericton for the clinic or Nova Scotia for a hospital. The National Post writes about how social conservatism remains stronger in New Brunswick than the rest of the country. A recent poll [pdf] by Angus Reid shows most Canadians prefer abortions to be legal, but are split on if they should be funded.

Finally, this weekend sees Canada's first international conference on abortion rights. It has resulted in some protests and is using the hashtag #abortionpei for those who wish to follow along at home.
posted by Lemurrhea (7 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I was taught by prof. Hughes in law school. But it's the best article around, and frankly she's a tenured prof, I'm really not concerned about boosting her career.

If you've been following the issue, I'd still point out her article, as well as the two activehistory.ca articles, "travel and rural access" and "international conference on abortion rights. They're a bit more in-depth and very interesting.

posted by Lemurrhea at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't understand. I thought the panel of doctors deciding if something was "medically necessary" was exactly the bit of the law that was struck down? Also, how is there no hospital in PEI that does abortions? I realize it's a small province, but that seems kind of outlandish.

Anyway, my recollection from HS law class was that the abortion law was struck down because it created inequality between women living in different provinces (because panels worked differnetly in different provinces), which the Charter forbids. So it does seem like this should be ripe for a charter challenge on those same grounds, no?

ah, OP is a lawyer...Can you explain how this isn't on it's face just obviously unconstitutional on the exact same grounds as the original abortion law? I mean I realize this isn't criminal law, it's health insurance regulation, but both are equally subject to the Charter, no?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:43 AM on August 8, 2014

Yeah, so the article by prof. Hughes is probably the clearest explanation. She's smarter than I am by far. But I'll try! Briefly:

The old law that was struck down in NS and NB was that the province couldn't ban abortion in clinics, because that was them trying to get around the fact that it was a criminal matter via a regulatory means. So instead, they just refused to pay for them.

It is almost certainly unconstitutional even with this change. Morgentaler tried to fight it, and it took about 10 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get a ruling that he was allowed to fight it, rather than a woman who went to the clinic but couldn't get paid back. And then he died.

And similarly, the original fight about doctor panels were that they banned abortions without it altogether. A technically different fight than the repayment of medicare. So like sometimes it's fine to have coverage change based on doctor's opinions - here in Ontario you don't get eye exams covered unless you have conditions xyz (like glaucoma and all that). I don't like that, but it's probably legal. But abortion doesn't really fit into those somewhat-edge cases, and even then it makes no sense to have a panel rather than your own family doctor.

Your problem is that you're trying to think of it rationally. These decisions are purely made to restrict access to abortion, which is not a rational decision in the first place.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:52 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry about all this happening :(

I just checked wikipedia to get an overview, and I'm noticing that while they updated Morgentaler's own page with his death, they haven't changed this page. I was also unaware of an anti-abortion organized terrorist organization in the US...
posted by halifix at 3:50 PM on August 8, 2014

My step-mom had an abortion performed by Morgentaler. A bit if an...odd brush with fame but there you go.

An AMAZING feminist organization in my little Alberta town has hosted fundraisers for this clinic. Considering where we are , they've been quite successful. Sad that it's just a drop in the bucket.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:13 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Canada needs to pull its act together and start acting as a country. One medical standard for all. Universal healthcare for all. None of this perverted religious interference with medical procedures.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:20 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

The trick is to get the best of all the systems instead of the worst common denominator. IE: it would suck if someone from Alberta suddenly looses Insulin pump coverage under an integrated system.
posted by Mitheral at 11:22 PM on August 9, 2014

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