Feminist groups call for immediate action on abortion access in New Brunswick

For Immediate Release

A coalition of feminist organizations is calling for the federal government and the government of New Brunswick to take immediate action in light of the imminent closure of Clinic 554 in Fredericton.

The Fredericton clinic, the only free-standing clinic providing surgical abortions in the province, is set to close by the end of the month. New Brunswick’s 30-year-old Regulation 84-20 restricts funding for surgical abortions through the provincial health care system to hospital settings, meaning patients at Clinic 554 must pay out-of-pocket. New Brunswick is the only province with such a provision, which violates the Canada Health Act.

In March, the federal government withheld $140,216 in transfer payments to the province due to this violation; however funding was restored, and the province additionally received more than $200 million in federal transfers to support its response to COVID-19.

The New Brunswick Medical Society has called the closure of Clinic 554 a “vital loss” to the community. The province is already facing a substantial health care provider shortage and the closure is expected to add 3,000 more patients to the waiting list for family doctors. Clinic 554 is also known for providing stigma-free family care, gender-affirming care for LGBTQ patients, addiction services, and other critical services to the community.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, it is outrageous that Premier Higgs is refusing to repeal Regulation 84-20 and fund essential health care at places like Clinic 554. As the rest of the country works to respond to this crisis with better access to care, this government is prioritizing anti-choice policies over the needs of people in the province,” said Frédérique Chabot, Acting Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

“Requiring women, trans, and gender non-conforming New Brunswickers to pay out-of-pocket for medically necessary services – or risk going without if they cannot drive to Moncton or Bathurst hospitals – is a violation of the Canada Health Act. The provincial government’s persistent refusal to repeal Regulation 84-20 cannot be ignored,” said Megan Stephens, Executive Director of the Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund (LEAF).

Feminist groups are calling on the government of New Brunswick to immediately repeal Regulation 84-20. They also call on the federal government to enforce the Canada Health Act in New Brunswick by redirecting the health transfer payment of $140,216 directly to Clinic 554 and provide immediate and emergency funding to Clinic 554 to remain open and continue delivering services to New Brunswickers.

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The coalition of feminist organizations is comprised of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Women’s Shelters Canada, Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund (LEAF), West Coast LEAF, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), YWCA Canada, and DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada (DAWN).