Busted: Experts agree that abortion access in New Brunswick is inadequate. Only 3 hospitals in NB perform surgical abortions (2 in Moncton, 1 in Bathurst), and only up to a gestational age of 13 weeks and 6 days. Clinic 554 in Fredericton helps to address these barriers by providing access outside of Moncton or Bathurst, performing abortions up to 15 weeks and 6 days, and taking referrals from hospitals for this service.
Long version: The fact that abortion access in NB is inadequate has been acknowledged by the Federal Minister of Health for decades. Most recently, the 2018-2019 Canada Health Act Annual Report, a Federal report on the state of health care in all the provinces, identified abortion access in NB as a problem. Minister Hajdu, the Federal Health Minister, is currently in conversation with our Premier and Health Minister regarding this issue.
Surgical abortion is currently funded in 3 designated NB hospitals: 2 in Moncton and 1 in Bathurst. So why isn’t this access enough? While it is true that many New Brunswickers may have to travel outside of their communities for health care, the time-sensitive nature of abortions means that people who need the procedure may not have the luxury of being able to travel to access it.
Abortion is also often sought under difficult circumstances and involves heightened privacy concerns. For some patients, having limited options may force them to disclose their pregnancy and intention to terminate to a partner, friend, or family member to arrange for transportation, childcare, elder care, etc. This could not only lead to the patient facing judgement and stigma but has also been shown to increase threats to their safety. Clinic 554 offers surgical abortion up to a gestational age of 15 weeks 6 days, whereas the hospitals only offer the procedure up to 13 weeks and 6 days which may be prohibitive for many patients.
In addition, the New Brunswick Medical Society, the Canadian Association of Midwives, and the Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have publicly acknowledged that abortion access is inadequate and underfunded in our province. The fact that the hospitals in NB frequently refer patients to Clinic 554 (where they then have to pay) is an indicator of insufficient access within our hospital system. The only people who continue to claim there isn’t a problem are some people in the New Brunswick provincial government.
All the national and international abortion guidelines recommend improving access to the procedure for the safety and well-being of patients. While abortion is a very safe procedure (NAF shows abortion is 10 times safer than childbirth), restricting access to abortion is dangerous for patients. People who are pregnant are at higher risk for physical and sexual violence, and people unable to access abortion are more likely to attempt to self-abort which can result in significant harm or death. The status quo in NB is insufficient, and access needs to be not only preserved but expanded.