Reproductive Justice NB launched the #AXE8420 campaign for abortion access on what they call the second “naughtiversary” of Premier Brian Gallant’s lifting of some barriers to abortion access in the province but not all. The group wants enhanced access to abortion services in the province including Medicare coverage of abortion services in clinics, including Clinic 554 in Fredericton.
The campaign was launched with a lecture by PEI abortion activist Colleen MacQuarrie on the victory of reproductive choice on the island. MacQuarrie talked about how reproductive choice activists took their demoralized anger and turned it into hopeful anger.
Jula Hughes, a member of RJNB and a law professor at the University of New Brunswick, opened the lecture by giving an overview of the history of the organization. The activist group was founded because of the “unbearable situation” of the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, in April 2014, with the mission of advancing of the cause of reproductive justice in New Brunswick.
The group was the “highlight of feminist living” made up of “all kinds of rabble-rousing people” in the founding meeting, held in a Fredericton cafe, according to Hughes. The group, based upon a collective model of governance early on, wanted to expand the vision of choice about parenting in the province, and was diverse, including the Fredericton Youth Feminists who were central.
The two main accomplishments of RJNB were a very successful crowdfunded campaign to open a new clinic in Fredericton, Clinic 554. Secondly, during the 2014 provincial election campaign, the situation changed with the supportive positions of three political parties and subsequent election of a Premier who promised to “remove all barriers” to access.
If that had been true, this would have been significant but, unfortunately, the last remaining piece, “constraining” access, remains legislation; only Moncton and Bathurst offer abortion services.
The most hypocritical aspect of the situation is that the hospitals themselves are orienting people to Clinic 554 for late-stage abortions, which they do not perform. Allison Webster, a spokesperson for RJNB, specified that the gestational limits for abortions are an arbitrary restriction and Hughes reminded the public that the abortion decision and procedural processes realistically take time.
According the Hughes, “the preferred mode of access, clinical services” continues to be available only for people who can afford it, since it is not reimbursed. Every year, approximately 1,000 women are forced to carry a pregnancy to term in New Brunswick. The average number of yearly abortions is about 1,000 in NB and statistics tell us that this is usually about half of the official numbers, given the average in other provinces.
Another RJNB member, Mary Milliken confirmed that RJNB has been doing a lot to promote reproductive rights in the province since its founding. Milliken declared that RJNB now wants “to remind the government that they have a job to do.”
This fall, RJNB is launching a campaign to push to have Regulation 84-20 removed from NB law. The campaign is called #AXE8420. The government has already gotten rid of two regulations, and RJNB would like the final obstacle to be removed because presently only hospital abortions are reimbursed.
For this reason, RJNB would like to send a clear message to the government. Tech-oriented people can send tweets about the #AXE8420 campaign but there are also low tech options such as Christmas postcards that can be sent to the long list of politicians who need to listen and act.
Sophie M. Lavoie is a member of Reproductive Justice NB.