The New Brunswick Liberal government has removed the legal requirement for a specialized license to perform an abortion procedure. Any doctors can now perform an abortion. Photo/Christopher Craig via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0 - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

New abortion regulations take hold in New Brunswick

By 
  • January 13, 2015

With the new year came fewer abortion restrictions in New Brunswick, to the dismay of pro-lifers.

As promised by Premier Brian Gallant, who made increasing abortion access part of his political platform during his 2014 election campaign, women no longer require the consent of two doctors to have an abortion. And abortions can now be performed by any doctor as Gallant’s Liberal government also stripped the legal requirement for a specialized licence to perform the procedure in the province.

The policy changes came into effect Jan. 1.

Last spring’s closure of Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s Abortion Services clinic led Gallant to make abortion a political issue again in the province.

“While the changes are not unexpected they make the government’s pro-abortion colours blatant,” said Peter Ryan, executive director of New Brunswick Right to Life Association.

The revised Regulation 84-20 of the province’s Medical Services Payment Act now reads an abortion will be covered if it is “performed in a hospital facility approved by the jurisdiction in which the hospital facility is located.”

Ryan lead a group of about 45 pro-lifers in a peaceful protest outside of the provincial legislature on Dec. 3 calling on the government to at least vote on the regulation changes — something not required by law. Although superficially heard that day by some of Gallant’s opposition, those concerns never seemed to resonate inside the legislature.

“The die was cast on Dec. 18 when government members closed ranks to quash debate on the controversial policy,” said Ryan, who criticized Gallant for deliberately withholding information from his peers and the public to push these policy reforms through.

“If the specifics had been known earlier, the questions I have posed might have been raised and the truth about the policy’s far-reaching implications might have come to light and spurred second thoughts in some quarters.”

With the changes, however, no new abortion facilities have opened and abortion is still only available at two hospitals, the Dr. Georges L. Dumont Regional Hospital  in Moncton and the Bathurst Chaleur Regional Hospital. Luc Foulem, a spokesperson for Vitalité Health Network, which manages both hospitals, said there in no reason to believe they will be adding additional sites in the future.  

“There are a few too many variables at this point for us to justify making some infrastructure changes,” he said.

He continued by noting that Vitalité would need to communicate with Horizon Health Network, the province’s other health authority, before even considering such changes.

But despite no increase in abortion access, pro-lifers are displaced with the regulation changes and will continue to push back against the province’s policies.

“We will be resilient and fight on in a variety of ways,” said Ryan. “We are not going away ... (and) in a certain way the spelling out of the new policy provokes more of a pro-life backlash. It strengthens us to fight on.”

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