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New Brunswick premier to end restrictions on access to abortion services

This past April the Council of Canadians Fredericton chapter participated in an emergency rally in response to the announcement by the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton that said it would close in July because of New Brunswick’s continued refusal to fund abortion care at the clinic.

The clinic had been forced to charge patients directly for medically required services in contravention of the Canada Health Act because of the provincial government’s refusal to fund these services. The Globe and Mail reports, “A regulation, brought in 25 years ago by a previous Liberal premier, Frank McKenna, requires that a woman get the approval of two doctors to receive a medically funded abortion. In addition, only two hospitals in the province perform the procedure – often forcing women to travel from their communities.”

Today the newspaper reports, “New Brunswick’s premier-designate, Brian Gallant, who publicly declared his pro-choice stand in a province that restricts women’s access to abortion, is moving quickly to remove those barriers. His officials are already collecting names, including doctors and human-rights experts, of those who might agree to serve on a committee to look at how to make it easier for women to have abortions.”

“Repealing the contentious regulation does not require a vote in the legislature. It can be repealed by cabinet. During the campaign, pro-choice advocates called for Mr. Gallant to immediately repeal the regulation. They were not satisfied with his position that he look at, not just the regulation, but all barriers to women’s reproductive rights, such as funding, or how to recruit more doctors to the province.”

In May 2011, when prime minister Stephen Harper was being pushed to reopen the abortion debate nationally, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commented in the Toronto Star “this is Stephen Harper’s true constituency” and noted, “I think we know where he is going with this right-wing agenda [but] I think he will not want to jeopardize that by taking a sharp-right turn on something like abortion.”

Photo: Fredericton chapter at pro-choice rally.