Women in New Brunswick are going to Maine to get abortions

Published On October 31, 2014 | By Krysten | News
People protesting the closure of Fredericton's Morgenthaler clinic (Facebook Photo)

People protesting the closure of Fredericton’s Morgenthaler clinic (Facebook Photo)

By Adam Stroud

Women in New Brunswick have started resorting to some desperate measures when it comes to terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

Because of the largely conservative culture and some extremely restrictive – some say illegal – laws against abortion, women have started looking outside of their own province in order to have safe access to an abortion. Many women have even looked across the border into Maine.

Executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor, Maine, Ruth Lockhart told Humber News since the closure of Fredericton’s Morgenthaler clinic in July, the rates of New Brunswick women going over the border into the United States to access a safe abortion have risen dramatically.

“We used to see one or two Canadian women every six months or so,” she said.

“Now half of our clients are Canadians. It’s definitely a huge spike.”

Spokesperson for Reproductive Justice New Brunswick, Jessi Taylor, told Humber News that New Brunswick has become a “crisis zone” when it comes to reproductive rights.

“It’s absolutely disgusting that we have to seek medical services in the United States instead of our own country,” she said.

In New Brunswick there are currently only two hospitals where an abortion can be legally done, in Moncton and Bathurst, and the wait lists are so long that a client may not be able to get an appointment before it becomes to late to perform the operation.

This situation is disadvantageous for women from rural communities or with low incomes who can not afford or do not have the means to travel.

“As usual, women with resources are definitely able to come. My concern is the women without the resources, without the lives that can be flexible enough to make a five hour trip to Bangor,” said Lockhart.

Lockhart’s clinic in Maine offers financial assistance to women in need, but there is still a requirement for a passport and travel expenses.

The laws that Reproductive Justice New Brunswick and other advocacy groups take issue with are extremely restrictive for those who wish to access an abortion in the province and make an elective procedure nearly impossible to obtain.

NB Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2 (a.1) of the Medical Services Payment Act requires that in order to obtain the procedure, two doctors must sign-off that the procedure is medically necessary and performed in a hospital by an OB/GYN. Medical Services Payment Act, Section 2.01 prohibits government funding of private abortion clinics.

 

Reproductive Justice New Brunswick maintains that these laws which have been in place since the 1990s go against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, several Supreme Court decisions and the Canada Health Act.

We’re always hopeful. We’re also continuing to fight

The fear among activists and medical professionals is that women without the means to access safe abortion in New Brunswick will self-induce a miscarriage with the use of drugs or other means.

“There’s a reason why a coat hanger is one of the major symbols of fighting anti-abortion legislations,” said Taylor.

There has been research that shows creating barriers or banning abortion does not stop it from happening, but does cause a public health crisis from people seeking the procedure illegally.

Newly elected New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant promised to repeal the current abortion laws as part of his election platform but nothing has happened since he has taken office on October 7.

In New Brunswick, laws can be repealed by the cabinet and do not need to go to a vote in the provincial legislature.

Taylor said Reproductive Justice New Brunswick will continue to take a stand for reproductive rights until there is change.

“We’re always hopeful. We’re also continuing to fight,” she said.

To raise awareness, the organization has put a clock on their website which tracks how much time has passed since Gallant’s election with no change. Taylor said the group will continue to rally and educate the public on the issue.

Humber News reached out to Premier Brian Gallant and New Brunswick’s Health Minister Victor Boudreau but neither have responded to our request before deadline.

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