Kathleen Adams, a recent graduate of the University of New Brunswick’s law school, has been occupying the New Brunswick Legislature grounds since Saturday, Sept. 19 and plans to stay there until the hurricane and her birthday on Tuesday, Sept. 22 to save Clinic 554 in Fredericton.
Clinic 554 is being forced to plan its closure due to the government of New Brunswick not funding abortion services at its location. The closure of Clinic 554 in Fredericton would not only end abortion services in the province’s capital city, it would also end trans health care services that the clinic provides.
Reproductive Justice NB and the Campaign to Save Clinic 554, groups that include university law professors and students, say that New Brunswick’s Medical Services Payment Act, specifically, Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2a.1, violates the Canada Health Act by restricting funding for abortion services in New Brunswick to hospital settings only.
Currently, only hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst provide Medicare-funded abortion services. Clinic 554 is also the only second trimester abortion provider in the province. Patients must pay out-of-pocket to have an abortion at Clinic 554.
“I want respectful information-sharing to be had,” said Adams. People are encouraged to visit Adams and the occupation both in person while respecting social distancing and through the online livestreaming Facebook page.
“We want the attention of those who are supposed to be working there inside,” said Carina Tras with the Campaign to Save Clinic while pointing at the doors of the New Brunswick Legislature.
When a police officer asked why Adams and others were there on Sunday morning, Sept. 20, Melissa Lukings with the Campaign to Save Clinic 554, said, “We are calling on the government to cut off the health care transfers to the province because the province is violating the Canada Health Act by not providing adequate access to medically necessary services as required to receive payments from the federal government.”
“Premier Blaine Higgs has said that if you feel if the Canada Health Act is being violated then challenged me in court, but that’s not how that works. You can’t actually challenged that in court. I don’t know if he hasn’t read the Act or what?,” said Lukings.
“What we can do is ask Patty Hadju, Canada’s Health Minister, and Justin Trudeau to cut health payments. Provinces can choose to not follow the Canada Health Act but then they lose their money,” said Lukings.
Valerya Edelman, Clinic 554’s Manager, has noted in a previous NB Media Co-op story: “The Higgs government has been found in violation of Canada Health Act and penalized already once. New Brunswick will likely continue to be penalized by the federal government because of Higgs’ government negligence.”
Support for Clinic 554 is growing. Dr. Christa Mullaly, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Fredericton’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital recently wrote a letter to Premier Blaine Higgs in support of Clinic 554.
“This letter showcases how Clinic 554 has specialised knowledge and skills that are not only an incredible resource for New Brunswickers, but are already integrated into our larger community health services. Dr. Mullaly recognizes that once we lose Clinic 554, neither the services it provides or the human resources that come with such specialised training, care, and knowledge are easily replaced even after we Axe 84-20,” said Jessi Taylor with Reproductive Justice New Brunswick.
Back at the New Brunswick Legislature, Adams recognizes that she is privileged to stay the night in a tent and be safe. She wants the government to take action to save Clinic 554.
Tracy Glynn is a member of Reproductive Justice NB and an editor of the NB Media Co-op.