Peter Ryan, executive director of Right to Life New Brunswick. Register file photo.

New Brunswick to ease abortion restrictions

By 
  • November 28, 2014

New Brunswick's Liberal government is removing restrictions to make access to abortion easier in the Maritime province. 

“As one newspaper headline said today, it is a monumental shift in public policy on abortion here in New Brunswick,” said Peter Ryan, executive director of Right to Life New Brunswick. “For many years New Brunswick and (Prince Edward Island) have stood apart from the rest of Canada in that we have not had a policy on tax-funded abortion on demand. Now that has changed.”

On Nov. 26 Premier Brian Gallant announced that his government would be removing two legal regulations as of Jan. 1 that restrict open access to abortion. Those seeking an abortion in New Brunswick will no longer require the signed approval of two doctors and those performing the procedure will no longer require a specialist classification, meaning even family doctors can perform an abortion. 

“We saw it coming but it is a heavy blow for anyone who believes in the right to life or the true health of women,” said Ryan. “This is going to change our abortion situation rather drastically.” 

This comes just two months after the Liberals won a majority in the provincial election.  

During his campaign Gallant “made (abortion) an election issue,” said Ryan, by promising to review Regulation 84-200 of the Medical Services Payment Act which brought the two-signature requirement in two decades ago. 

Despite the premier's office indicating that no review had taken place as of early November, “we have identified the barriers and are proceeding to eliminate them in order to respect our legal obligations under the Supreme Court of Canada ruling and the Canada Health Act regarding a woman's right to choose,” reads a statement issued by Gallant on Nov. 26. 

Conversations surrounding abortions reignited in New Brunswick earlier this year when the Morgentaler Abortion Clinic in Fredericton shut its doors in June. The clinic eceived no government funding to perform abortions. This in part prompted Gallant to raise the issue of government funding for abortion during the election campaign.

Campaign Life Coalition said that while Gallant's promises may have glazed over some tired-eyed citizens, it is now time to wake up to reality. 

“This decision should act as a wake-up call to all New Brunswickers,” said Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition. “Brian Gallant and the Liberal party of New Brunswick have caved in to the demands of a very loud minority of pro-abortion activists who support taxpayer-funded killing of defenceless pre-born human beings, unlike the majority of Canadians.” 

Ryan believes approval is not guaranteed just yet. 

“The opposition here is considering bringing this matter to a vote in the legislature which I think is the right thing to do,” said Ryan. “There are enough people in (Gallant's) caucus who are not pro-choice that if that matter comes to a vote it could be quite ticklish.” 

Although he didn't offer names, Ryan said he knows of at least two Liberal caucus members “who are pro-life leaning.”  

Ryan did say there is good news to be found in Gallant's announcement.

“We are glad in one sense because the funding for the clinic next door to us (the Morgentaler Clinic) has not been announced,” he said. “The group that wants to re-open that clinic, they are not happy because they don't get funding.”

Long-term though, "I remain sceptical” that the province will withhold funding as abortion demand increases in the province. 

Next year alone Ryan predicts there will be an additional 1,000 abortions in New Brunswick. That would bring the province inline with the provincial per capita average in Canada. Ontario alone averages about 29,000 abortions annually, according to Abortions in Canada. 

The majority of provinces in Canada have allowed abortions to be performed with limited to no restrictions since the 1988 Supreme Court ruling in favour of Dr. Henry Morgentaler who challenged the pre-existing abortion laws on constitutional grounds. Following that ruling the Supreme Court gave the government of Canada one year to establish new laws but that never actually happened. 

Comments (1)

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There are numerous situations in which an abortion should be permitted and provincially funded. It makes sense therefore that removing some restrictions is compassionately appropriate. For those who believe that abortions should not be permitted...

There are numerous situations in which an abortion should be permitted and provincially funded. It makes sense therefore that removing some restrictions is compassionately appropriate. For those who believe that abortions should not be permitted under any circumstances – nothing changes.

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