Repeal New Brunswick's Anti-Abortion Law Now!

Media Release — For Immediate Release Jan. 31, 2005

New Brunswick's Anti-Abortion Law is an "Embarrassment" to Canada

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 service."

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, not approve.
  • 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 funded—regardless 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.


Pro-Choice Action Network, Vancouver, BC.
Tel: 604-736-2800