Repeal New Brunswick's Anti-Abortion Law Now!
Media Release — For Immediate Release Jan.
New Brunswick's Anti-Abortion Law is an "Embarrassment"
VANCOUVER Pro-choice activists are applauding Health Minister
Ujjal Dosanjh's determination to ensure that New Brunswick obeys
the law by funding abortions at the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic.
New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that is still enforcing
an illegal law that restricts abortion [see backgrounder below].
"New Brunswick's regulation is unconstitutional on its face,
and insulting to women," said Joyce Arthur of the Pro-Choice
Action Network. "It imposes completely arbitrary and unnecessary
obstacles to abortion that discriminate against women who can't
pay or who can't negotiate the bureaucratic process. As a result,
many women can't get an abortion in time, or at all."
Calling the abortion regulation an an embarrassment to Canada,"
Arthur explained that Canada is respected internationally
as one of the most pro-choice countries in the world because we
have no laws against abortion. That's because our Charter of Rights
guarantees equality to women, which includes freedom of choice on
abortion. Yet here's New Brunswick, forcing women to jump through
unconstitutional hoops before they can access a necessary medical
Arthur noted that New Brunswick could easily resolve the situation
by converting the Morgentaler Clinic into a publicly funded clinic
and repealing the province's illegal regulation. "Dosanjh is
absolutely right to go after New Brunswick," said Arthur. "He
must because the Province is wrongly imposing its anti-choice
religious beliefs on all women there."
The Pro-Choice Action Network also supports Dr. Henry Morgentaler's
current lawsuit against the province, to force it to fund his clinic.
"He'll win because New Brunswick is clearly acting outside
the law," said Arthur. "Anti-abortion ideology won't stand
up in court, because it amounts to discrimination against women."
New Brunswick's Illegal Law Against Abortion
New Brunswick's Medical Services Payment Act, Regulation 84-20,
Schedule 2(a.1)) states that abortion is only eligible for payment
by Medicare when:
performed by a specialist in the field of obstetrics
and gynaecology in a hospital facility approved by the jurisdiction
in which the hospital facility is located, and two medical practitioners
certify in writing that the abortion was medically required."
This regulation violates women's constitutional rights, as well
as all five principles of the Canada Health Act (comprehensiveness,
universality, accessibility, portability, and public administration).
- It forces women to pay out-of-pocket for abortions at the Morgentaler
Clinic, while funding them at hospitals. But Health Canada says
that medically required treatments must be fully funded regardless
of where they are performed, hospitals or clinics.
- It forces women to obtain approval from two doctors before they
can get a funded abortion at a hospital. This violates women's
constitutional rights to freedom of conscience, liberty, and bodily
security. The Supreme Court of Canada said (in the 1988 Morgentaler
decision that threw out Canada's abortion law) that abortion is
a woman's private decision that the state is required to respect,
- It forces the two doctors to certify in writing that the abortion
is "medically required" This is redundant because the
province has already deemed abortion to be medically required
by funding some of them at hospitals. By definition, all abortions
are medically required and must be funded, just like all childbirths
are medically required and fundedregardless of the woman's
reasons for wanting an abortion or a baby.
- It requires abortions to be performed by a specialist in Obstetrics/Gynecology.
This limits access unnecessarily, because abortions can easily
be done by family physicians, who are far more numerous than Ob/Gyns.
- It violates the rights of New Brunswick women who need an abortion
while outside the province. All Canadian citizens are covered
by Medicare when they move or travel to another province. However,
New Brunswick has used its abortion regulation to justify keeping
abortion on the list of services excluded from its reciprocal
billing agreement with other provinces.
Also, hospitals in New Brunswick perform abortions only up to 12
weeks gestation. This arbitrary policy exists even though the province
forces women to wade through red tape that often delays the procedure
past 12 weeks. There is no legal or medical justification for imposing
gestational limits on abortion.