New Brunswick Abortion Access
The New Brunswick government enforces a regulation that limits
funded abortions to those performed in hospitals by a specialist with
the written approval of two doctors. This regulation violates the Canada
Health Act as well as the 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler decision.
The latter tossed Canada's abortion law because it set arbitrary
obstacles to access that discriminated against women and violated
women's "security of the person." The NB regulation does exactly the
Dr. Henry Morgentaler is pursuing a lawsuit against the province,
and the issue currently before the courts is whether he has "standing"
which the NB government is disputing. We believe Dr. Morgentaler has a
great defense on this point, which will be decided in the near future.
One of the doctors at the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton is
being subjected to on ongoing campaign of intimidation by anti-choicers
in NB, via demonstrations outside the clinic, and letters to her
colleagues. We are urging the government to publicly support this
doctor and NB abortion services in general, and we also are supporting
the National Abortion Federation in its efforts to implement a bubble
zone law in New Brunswick to protect the clinic. This avenue looks
promising so far.
Heather Mallick was keynote speaker at a popular event in
Fredericton at the University of NB on April 11. Heather spoke to an
overflow crowd of 300 supportive people. The event was sponsored and
organized by several groups including the Abortion Rights Coalition of
Canada. Read Heather's article about New Brunswick here: "Abortion
rights and abortion fights: Court fight over legal payments about to
A sister pro-choice group, Canadians for Choice, issued a report in April called "Reality Check: a close look at accessing abortion services in Canadian hospitals." It found that only 15.9% of Canadian hospitals provide accessible abortion services, compared to 17.8% in 2003.
To put this into perspective, it's important to note that clinic access has increased over the years, which explains to some extent the overall decline in hospital access. Clinics actually do about 45% of all abortions in Canada now, compared to less than 7% in 1988. Access is generally good to very good in major centres in Canada, but is lacking in rural and remote areas, where hospital services are most urgently required. Canada remains in a very enviable situation compared to all other countries in the world in terms of abortion rights and laws, although somewhat less so in terms of access. We definitely need more hospitals doing abortions, and more providers too. But to ARCC-CDAC, one of the key findings of the report is the shocking lack of respect and the degree of misinformation or lack of information given to women looking for abortion services.
The full Canadians for Choice report
ARCC press release: "New report highlights lack of respect for women accessing abortion"
"Accessing Choice in Canada" by Pamela Pizarro (interview with report researcher)
Bertha Wilson passed away on April 28, Canada's first female Supreme
Court judge. She helped strike down Canada's restrictive abortion law
in the 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler decision. Her concurring decision
was far-reaching and visionary, going beyond the other justices. She
saw women's right to "liberty" and "freedom of conscience" as
encompassing the right to have an abortion.
Recently, ARCC’s Coordinator, Joyce Arthur, co-authored an
unpublished piece with a law student, part of which argued that the
Supreme Court today has a more evolved view of the Charter and would be
likely to adopt Wilson's view of abortion rights, rather than fall back
on the narrower interpretation of the other justices. If you'd be
interested in reading this, please email us at email@example.com and
ask for a copy.
A great quote by Wilson from the Morgentaler decision is: “Liberty in a free and democratic society does not require the state to approve the personal decisions made by its citizens; it does, however, require the state to respect them. A woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy falls within this class of protected decisions. It is one that will have profound psychological, economic, and social consequences for her. It is a decision that deeply reflects the way the woman thinks about herself and her relationship to others and to society at large. It is not just a medical decision; it is a profound social and ethical one as well."
Bertha Wilson, 83: First female Supreme Court justice. Canadian Press, May 01, 2007, by Tracey Tyler.
'The great dissenter' The first female judge to ascend to the Supreme Court dies at 83. The Globe and Mail, Tue 01 May 2007, by Kirk Makin