Save the Morgentaler Clinic!

There’s a fundraiser going around to try to fund the now-broke Morgentaler Clinic, New Brunswick’s only abortion clinic. This clinic’s bankruptcy comes thanks to the laws enacted by conservative religious politicians which ensure that the only abortions that are funded by medicare (as legally required by Health Canada) are those that are approved by TWO doctors during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

The Fundrazr site says:

Please help us ensure the people of New Brunswick have access to safe abortion on demand.

Reproductive Justice New Brunswick (RJNB) is a collective of individuals from across New Brunswick dedicated to ensuring publicly funded and self-referred abortion is available in the province. We demand the repeal of NB Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2 (a.1) of the Medical Services Payment Act which requires two doctors to sign off that the procedure is “medically required” and that it must be performed in a hospital by an OBGYN. As a result, the people of New Brunswick have unequal access to abortion services as compared to the rest of Canada.

The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick’s only public reproductive health clinic is slated to close on July 18th 2014, resulting from this restrictive provincial legislation. As a result, New Brunswick is in a crisis situation.

The current provincial government, as well as the official opposition, refuse to take action. The current barriers to abortion set in place by the Government of New Brunswick are not only unconstitutional, they are dangerous; when abortion is restricted or difficult to access, health and wellbeing declines.

Reproductive Justice NB has begun an effort to lease the existing Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton. The collective is in discussion with the building’s owners to enter into a lease agreement and further explore options to encourage family practitioners who support a person’s right to full reproductive services, including the right to abortion. The estimate cost of the lease agreement is $100,000.

While securing a lease agreement is a bandaid solution and does not automatically mean New Brunswickers will have improved abortion access, it does give the people of New Brunswick a fighting chance to access their rights under the Charter of Rights and the Canada Health Act.

Please consider helping Reproductive Justice New Brunswick reach this important goal.

Every donation, however large or small, is one step closer to ensuring reproductive choice in New Brunswick. Unless this oppressive regulation is overturned, New Brunswickers will not have equal access to abortion services. If Reproductive Justice NB is unable to raise the full $100,000, all money raised will go towards renewed efforts to overturn the Medical Services Payment Act.

To download a fact sheet about lack of abortion access in New Brunswick, please visit choixnbchoice.org.



If you have any money to contribute to this campaign, this is as worthy a cause as any other. New Brunswick’s Morgentaler clinic has in the past vowed to provide necessary medical care to anyone in need, whether the government pays for it (as mandated by Health Canada) or not. That’s how the clinic is now in such dire straits. If you can kick in some money, please do.

If the above widget doesn’t work for whatever reason, go to the Fundrazr site.

Maddow: The long history of violence in the anti-choice movement

If you imagine yourself to be defending free speech when you laud the Supreme Court for overturning a buffer zone law, mandating that protesters can’t swarm over abortion clinic patients intimidating them, then you have no sweet clue what “free speech” is. The violence and outright terrorism that happens at abortion protests, that buffer zones have actually helped to curtail to a degree, is not “free speech”.

Ontario public health policy under review, religious exception for doctors debated

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has written the current public policy, adopted by Ontario in December 2008, which binds physicians to provide Human Rights Code-mandated services without discrimination for any reason, including religious or moral beliefs of the physician.

This means that physicians cannot make decisions about whether to accept individuals as patients, whether to provide existing patients with medical care or services, or whether to end a physician-patient relationship on the basis of the individual’s or patient’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status and/or disability.

That code is currently being reviewed, and people are being asked to submit comment:

The College recognizes that religious and moral beliefs are central to the lives of physicians and their patients. The current policy addresses situations in which physicians’ personal, moral or religious beliefs may affect or limit the medical services they provide. The policy provides physicians with an overview of the relevant legal obligations and factors related to these situations. The policy also articulates the College’s own expectations for physicians who limit their practice, refuse to accept individuals as patients or end a physician-patient relationship on the basis of moral or religious belief.

Have Your Say

We would like to hear your thoughts on the current policy, along with suggestions you may have for how the policy could be improved.

In particular, we are interested to know:

  • Does the policy provide useful guidance?
  • Are there issues not addressed in the current policy that should be addressed? If so, what are they?
  • Are there other ways in which the policy should be improved?

Please provide your feedback by August 5, 2014.

[…]

The feedback obtained during this consultation will be carefully reviewed and used to evaluate the draft. While it may not be possible to ensure that every comment or suggested edit will be incorporated into the revised policy, all comments will be carefully considered.

Obviously, this is a cultural touchstone for reproductive rights activists, as religious folks have primarily held the anti-abortion banner and their current assault on those reproductive rights in Canada — fully legal since Morgentaler, mind you — are presently being eroded via a series of legislation changes that allow religious doctors to refuse to provide medically-indicated services that conflict with what they believe their religion contraindicates.

We can safely assume this is entirely a concern as pertains abortion, and not some other religious mandate, because not one single instance of a Jehovah’s Witness doctor refusing to give a blood transfusion has hit the press, whereas Jehovah’s Witness patients refusing blood transfusions abound (often despite legal challenges initiated by doctors).

The issue is reportedly largely being ignored in Ontario; the religiously-motivated anti-abortionists are spreading disinformation and getting a disproportionately loud voice on what channels do exist, likely owing to the word being spread through anti-abortion camps. Since we around these parts happen to believe that women deserve basic human rights and that bodily autonomy is one of those rights, I figured it might be good to get the word out and try to tip the scales back toward the only morally justifiable stance on abortion: any time, by any woman, for any reason.

You can leave feedback here, or better yet, take the online survey.

There is also a poll, which at time of writing was already heavily tipped by others’ efforts in the atheist community:

Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?

No (81%, 5,575 Votes)
Yes (18%, 1,247 Votes)
Don’t know (1%, 22 Votes)
Total Voters: 6,844

Feel free to tip that even further toward the side of more perfect morality, as well!

Huge tip of the hat to George Waye. Cheers, mate.

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – PDF

A few people wanted it in PDF form, so here’s Tia Beaudoin’s thesis, reformatted and polished up in a nice, easily distributable PDF file.

Took me all evening to build this. Hope it serves someone well!

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick

If you’d like to read it in blog format, here it is:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Conclusion

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Conclusion

Change is inevitable for New Brunswick; the only thing the provincial government can do is slow that change down, although resisting change comes at the high cost of restrictions being placed upon women’s rights and health care. Many who are following the ongoing Morgentaler v. New Brunswick case speculate that the provincial government is stalling the case because they are waiting for Morgentaler to die, as he is growing older and in ill health. If this happens, the case will dissolve and if someone else were to wish to continue with that case they would need to start from the beginning. Even if Morgentaler dies before the case is over, the human rights complaint will still be processed, attacking Regulation 84-20 from the physician’s side rather than from a women’s rights standpoint. Regardless, it is only a matter of time before the federal government chastises New Brunswick for not properly adhering to the Canada Health Act, however this will likely not happen while Prime Minister Harper is in office. I believe the likelihood of the federal government deducting from New Brunswick’s Canada Health Transfer would be increased under a Liberal or New Democratic government, as those parties are far less socially conservative by definition than Canada’s current government.
[Read more…]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Chapter 2

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act

Under the Canadian constitution, legislation, regulation, insuring of medical procedures is strictly under provincial jurisdiction.1 The federal Canada Health Act legislates that all provinces must cover medically necessary procedures within their respective provincial health insurance plans in order to be eligible for the Canada Health Transfer; which is a fund given by the federal government to provincial governments to help supplement provincial medical insurance payments among other things. Within the following chapter I will detail the government of New Brunswick’s problematic interpretation of the federal legislative void in which abortion has existed since 1988. 2 Included in this will be an explanation of the relevant court cases ongoing in the province. I will also discuss how the province has continued to be unpunished for its disregard of the Canada Health Act, although the federal government has full knowledge of New Brunswick’s transgressions. In addition I will conclude by discussing the importance of clinic abortion access, along with the numerous benefits these clinics can provide both to the government and to women in New Brunswick. New Brunswick’s abortion policy is operating in contravention to women’s Charter rights on several levels, and is extremely inaccessible when compared to many other Canadian provinces.
[Read more…]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Chapter 1

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada

This chapter will give a summary of federal abortion legislation from Confederation until present day. It will also describe the various societal problems associated with each historical stage of abortion legality, such as the widespread and at times deadly practice of illegal abortion. I will discuss how the societal issue of illegal abortion, coupled with the illegality of contraceptives and sexual health information and the sexual revolution and Second Wave feminism of the 1960’s brought about a surge in reproductive justice activism which helped fuel the flames of change in Canada. I will also consider the introduction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and how it led to one of the most significant moments in the history of abortion in Canada, the Supreme Court’s 1988 Morgentaler decision. I will conclude by describing Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s designation of abortion as a medical issue, thereby placing it’s regulation under provincial jurisdiction, which led to the numerous problems New Brunswick is facing today.
[Read more…]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Introduction

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Introduction

In an ideal world, women could choose when their bodies would become pregnant, and every child would result from a fully intended pregnancy. Scientifically, we as a society are getting closer to this ideal through an improved understanding of how the human body works, and through the use of contraception. However these methods are still flawed in a number of ways. Many women do not have access to contraceptives, either because they are too expensive or because they live in a restrictive home where they are not able to receive a prescription for birth control, or purchase condoms. Even if contraceptives are used, mistakes or lack of knowledge can still lead a woman to become pregnant. In addition to this, rape and intimate partner abuse is all too common in our society; women should not be expected to prepare themselves to prevent pregnancy from sexual assault. In addition to this, a partner may refuse to wear a condom. There are countless situations when contraceptives are either impossible to access, or their use is ineffective.
[Read more…]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – cover

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

[Read more…]

Dr Henry Morgentaler’s Legacy

I hail from New Brunswick originally. I left for university, and by the end of my degree, I had decided to remain. At the time, the government was growing more conservative, and one of their great bugaboos was the number of people moving out — their population was essentially in free-fall.

Granted, the population wasn’t exactly huge to begin with. It had declined from 738,133 in 1996, to 729,498 in 2001 — a loss of 1.2%. It stagnated through 2006 — 729,997. The government started making noises about enticing emigrants, about stabilizing the job market and doing something about its flagging tech sector; there was a big to-do about this decline, to be sure. And the population began to swell again, to 751,171 in 2011.

In late 2013, another population decline — a mere 1000 person shortfall — caused another huge stir, such that the “Progressive” Conservative legislature under leader David Alward lamented the possibility of only seeing his grandchildren through Skype.

In the wake of that first scare, followed by the more recent revelation that outmigration is skyrocketing, it’s no surprise that the conservative New Brunswick political scene voted for the “Medical Services Payment Act”, Regulation 84-20, which had a bomb in it for abortion services. Now, throughout the province, abortions are no longer funded by the government as mandated by Health Canada, unless certified by TWO doctors as being “medically necessary”. How else are you going to swell your numbers except to force women to give birth?

As a result of this abrogation of women’s right to bodily autonomy, the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton — founded by the legendary Dr. Henry Morgentaler himself — is forced to close.

The rules of the clinic were set up such that nobody who needed abortion services would be turned away under any circumstances, and because the government stiffed them on the bills and they took a huge loss last year, they have to close up shop.

Back in 2009, Carl Urquhart, a Conservative MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly, the Canadian equivalent of a congressman) suggested with regard to the population decline that women should be making more babies, a statement he posted on Facebook that he’d later walked back. He was especially chastised for this in light of the province’s growing teenage pregnancy problem.

That’s about as transparent a reasoning as you can get for Conservatives’ anti-choice efforts. It was a refreshing moment of honesty from that party.

And this huge success in the fight to control what people can and cannot do with their reproductive organs comes just shy of a year after Dr. Henry Morgentaler — founder of the clinic — died of a heart attack. Morgentaler’s efforts practically single-handedly won the fight for safe, legal abortion nation-wide in 1988 with his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, where they overturned the whole of the Canadian abortion law as unconstitutional. The man was a lion for women’s rights, human rights, and reproductive freedom. And his legacy is being rent before our eyes.

Women can still theoretically get abortions in hospitals — providing they get two doctors to sign off on the “medically necessary” waiver — but as this map shows, access to abortion didn’t come with its newfound legality. When your government tightly controls the demand for babies, you can force the supply by restricting access to any choice but becoming a baby-factory.

You might understandably make the mistake that the “demand” is actually for abortions, but then you’d be misunderstanding the directionality of these laws. In the fight for women’s bodily autonomy, the uterus is actually the supply, and the government apparently gets to make the demands.

For what it’s worth, here’s the state of the struggle for abortion rights through Canada. You’ll note that almost no place in Canada actually has access to an abortion clinic or hospital within a reasonable travel time, and that the gestation limits are terribly restrictive in a number of cases — some as low as 12 weeks, like New Brunswick. Many provinces have absolutely no access to abortions, medical or otherwise.

This fight is hardly won, despite it being unconstitutional to restrict abortions, and despite it being both legal and defined explicitly by Health Canada.