CANADA – Allow surgical abortions in New Brunswick clinics, federal report says

A highly anticipated research study on surgical abortion access in New Brunswick has recommended the province allow doctors to perform the procedure in community clinics as a way of eliminating access barriers. But the report does not call on the federal government, which commissioned the study, to force the province to act, as it is not clear Ottawa can do so legally. The lead author, former University of New Brunswick law professor Jula Hughes, says the data from hospital abortions and those at Fredericton’s Clinic 554 prove that “hospital access is just slower”. “The fact that the clinic provided 1,007 patients with abortions suggests the existing hospital access isn’t enough,” she said.

“Canada lacks a straightforward articulation of a Charter right to abortion and a readily enforceable statutory right to funded abortion care,” the report says.

The province’s refusal to fund abortions at Clinic 554 has gone on for a long time. In the 2019 election campaign, Trudeau vowed he would “ensure that the New Brunswick government allows access, paid-for access, to clinics that offer abortion services outside of hospitals.” He told reporters he would tell provincial Premier Higgs “that we will use all tools at our disposal, including tools that exist under the Canada Health Act.” But other than clawing back some $64,850 of federal health transfer payments, Trudeau has not acted.

Meanwhile, data compiled in 2022 show that more than two-thirds of abortions in New Brunswick in 2022 were medical, not surgical, which should shift the terms of the debate.

SOURCE: CBC News, by Jacques Poitras, 14 November 2023