The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton is slated to close when their lease expires at the end of July due to lack of funds. Unlike every other province with private abortion clinics, the New Brunswick government refuses to provide funding for abortion services unless they are performed in a hospital and are deemed “medically necessary” by two doctors.
With time running out, more than 1,100 people have now donated more than $100,000 to a crowdfunding campaign on FundRazr.com. The group behind the campaign, Reproductive Justice NB (RJNB), plans to use the funds to negotiate a new lease agreement for the clinic’s building on Brunswick Street in Fredericton.
In a press release earlier this month, RJNB chair Kathleen Pye acknowledged that extending the lease was a “bandaid solution” — it may keep the clinic door’s open but it doesn’t change the reality of poor abortion service access in both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, especially for those who are most vulnerable.
According to RJNB, the Morgentaler Clinic was performing more than half of the abortions in New Brunswick, at a cost of $700 to $850, paid out of pocket. Unlike abortions paid for by the New Brunswick government, women do not need the permission of two doctors to go to the clinic, and can simply refer themselves.
The clinics says 10 per cent of its clientele come from P.E.I., where there is no abortion access whatsoever. P.E.I. women seeking an abortion can be referred to a hospital in Halifax but although the government will cover the cost of the procedure, travel costs are left up to the woman. A proposal was recently brought forward from three physicians willing to perform abortions on the Island, but it was rejected by P.E.I.’s health authority.
I want to point out that abortion, despite being covered by the Canada Health Act, is drastically underfunded and practically unavailable to many women, especially women in rural areas. New Brunswick’s laws are prohibitively restrictive, leading to this funding shortfall which threatens the Morgentaler clinic to this day. So, despite access being the law of the land, the religious conservatives who fight against reproductive rights are managing to make it impossible to get a safe, legal abortion.
We can’t keep the place open forever by staging fund-raisers. Eventually, if the laws aren’t changed to provide these medically-necessary services to all women over the din of protest by the religious conservatives, women will no longer have what last vestiges of bodily autonomy that our patriarchal society pretends to deign fit to allow them — not to mention the women who will suffer and die as a result of lack of access to reproductive care. Given that most abortions are by women who already have children, imagine for a moment how many children will lose their mothers because they couldn’t get the medical procedure they need.
Go ahead, just try to tell me that’s “pro-life”.