New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is in Victoria, B.C. on Monday and Tuesday at the annual meeting of Canada’s premiers. There, the premiers are expected to push Canada on increased health transfers to the provinces and territories. Last week, Higgs tweeted a graphic with the words, “Time is up: While we wait on Ottawa, people wait on health care.”
— Blaine Higgs (@premierbhiggs) July 4, 2022
Make no mistake: Higgs is not the health care champion we need. The Higgs government is one of many examples of why we need health transfers with strings attached.
It does not matter if Canada pours millions or billions of dollars more into health care in New Brunswick when the province continues to systematically deny health care to segments of our population. Canada should increase health transfers to the provinces, but it also must force New Brunswick to follow the Canada Health Act and make vital health care, including abortion care, accessible in the province.
Higgs and every Conservative and Liberal premier since Frank McKenna in the nineties has refused to strike the misogynist regulation in New Brunswick’s Medical Services Payment Act that restricts Medicare-funded abortions to hospital settings.
Here we are, 20 years later, 2022, and the only abortion provider in New Brunswick’s capital city, Clinic 554, has been forced to sell its building and restrict its services. Only two cities in the province, Moncton and Bathurst, provide Medicare-funded abortion services. These hospitals refer those seeking later-term abortions to Clinic 554 where patients must pay $850 for a later-term abortion.
— Save Clinic 554 / Sauvons la Clinique 554 (@SaveClinic554) July 9, 2022
To be clear, funding abortions at Clinic 554 is not supporting private health care. That red herring has been used by Conservative and Liberal politicians alike. These privatization-loving politicians have been contracting out health care services, most prominently to third party provider Medavie, for years. Now, they have the audacity to falsely use that argument to deny funding a health care service at a doctor’s practice when other services performed at that doctor’s practice are funded by Medicare. The only answer to the question, why are abortions not covered by Medicare, is misogyny.
On Saturday, more than 100 people gathered at a solidarity rally for abortion and 2SLGTQIA+ rights outside the Legislature in Fredericton. There, Jennifer Stairs, Executive Director of the New Brunswick NDP, gave a fiery speech, expressing her frustration that accessible abortion care is still an issue.
Stairs told the audience that she worked in former NDP Leader Elizabeth Weir’s office in the 1990s when then-Premier Frank McKenna tried to stop the Morgentaler Clinic from opening in Fredericton. McKenna’s government did so by adding Schedule 2.a.1 to Regulation 84.20 of the Medical Payment Services Act that restricts abortion services to hospitals.
Today, Higgs, New Brunswick’s self-declared anti-choice premier, continues to restrict abortion services by not striking that regulation, forcing a lawsuit on the province for violating the Canada Health Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely the rights to liberty, security, privacy and equality.
Higgs will likely be on social media and in the news in the next few days, saying he wants more health care dollars from the federal government to fund more doctors, more health care workers, mental health services and long-term care. We want all those things too, but we also want accessible and comprehensive reproductive health care. We want systematic oppression in all its forms eliminated from our health care system.
Tracy Glynn is an organizer with Reproductive Justice NB and coordinating editor of the NB Media Co-op.