Fredericton – Members of Reproductive Justice NB and the Fredericton Youth Feminists came to the return of the sitting of the NB Legislature on Dec. 1st hoping to give MLAs messages calling for abortion access on coat hangers. The only Liberal MLA who was available to speak to them was Denis Landry who has represented the Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint-Isidore riding for several terms and is also the Minister of Natural Resources.
While labour rallied against the Gallant government’s proposed cuts and privatization to public services such as health care and education, Landry engaged with the reproductive health care advocates.
Landry was specifically asked to support the funding of clinical abortion services in the province, specifically the funding of abortion services at Clinic 554 in Fredericton. He said that the abortion issue is a tricky one.
Reproductive health care advocates argue that New Brunswick’s delay in action on abortion access further stigmatizes abortion and puts abortion health care providers in a precarious situation by feeding an anti-choice climate. The recent attack at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado and yesterday’s shooting at a women’s health centre in Houston are terrifying reminders of the extreme actions of violent anti-choice people.
While Landry spoke with the abortion access activists, Landry held a coat hanger with a cheeky message that said, “Booodreau,” that was given to him by a member of the Fredericton Youth Feminists. Health Minister Victor Boudreau is being called out for failing to remove barriers to abortion access in the province, which his Liberal party promised prior to the election.
When asked if he was pro-choice, Landry responded, “Well, I have seven grandchildren.” He was then asked to support access to abortion services for them.
Landry was then informed that the Quebec government had to pay $13 million to residents who had to pay for an abortion at a clinic from 1999 to 2006.
Abortion access advocates in New Brunswick have long argued that the province is violating a 1988 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and the Canada Health Act by not ensuring access to abortion services.
After the Gallant Liberals took power in the fall of 2014, they announced a repeal of a part of the Medical Services Payment Act that required those seeking an abortion to get the approval of two doctors and for the procedure to be done by an Ob-Gyn. The Gallant government did not repeal the other barrier found in the Act that effectively stops the funding of clinical abortion services.
The fee for an abortion at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton when it closed was $700 before 14 weeks of pregnancy, and $850 for 14 to 16 week pregnancies. Most Canadian provinces have abortion clinics and those that do pay for the service except New Brunswick.
The New Brunswick government has also made no plans to expand abortion services to Northwest or Southwest New Brunswick.
The NB Media Co-op broke a story last February that medicare-funded abortion services were only expanding to the Moncton City Hospital. The city of Moncton already had one hospital, the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, providing abortion services. The Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst, which happens to be located in Landry’s riding, is the only other location that provides abortion services in the province.
Reproductive Justice NB recently held a “Naught-aversary” party in Fredericton to mark one year of community action and political inertia on abortion access in New Brunswick. The group plans to make access to reproductive health care, specifically the funding of clinical abortion services, an issue in the new year.