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New Brunswick clinic to end abortions today

By: Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

 | Jul 18, 2014 - 3:09 PM |
The late Henry Morgentaler is pictured at his Fredericton clinic on Nov. 13, 1998 shortly after its opening. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bob Wilson

The late Henry Morgentaler is pictured at his Fredericton clinic on Nov. 13, 1998 shortly after its opening. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bob Wilson

FREDERICTON - The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton will perform its final abortions today, ending the availability of the procedure in New Brunswick without restrictions that have become the source of renewed anger among abortion rights advocates.

After 20 years, the facility will close its doors at the end of the month, citing losses tallying $100,000 over the last decade. The clinic said it could not continue providing abortions that are not publicly funded.

Successive provincial governments of both Liberal and Tory stripes have resisted calls to repeal legislation that critics say infringes upon the reproductive rights of women.

The source of the controversy is Regulation 84-20 of the province's Medical Services Payment Act. For abortion to be covered by medicare, the law requires two doctors to certify in writing that it is medically necessary and the procedure must be performed by a specialist in one of two approved hospitals.

"Women should be able to self-refer for an abortion and not have to get permission from a doctor to have it done in a hospital by a gynecologist and for somebody to say that it is medically necessary," said Simone Leibovitch, the manager of the Morgentaler Clinic.

"Women across Canada ... don't have to go through these hoops."

Supporters of the Morgentaler Clinic plan to march to the legislature to again call for the regulation to be scrapped. But the provincial government has consistently held by its position that there is no need for change.

Health Minister Hugh Flemming was not available for an interview, but in a statement stressed that women will still have access to abortions that are medically necessary and approved by two physicians.

"Access to this medical service will still be available in our province if the clinic closes," Flemming said.

But Kathleen Pye, the chairwoman of a group called Reproductive Justice NB, said that misses the point.

"This is a crisis situation and they can't leave it much longer," Pye said. "They need to talk to us and we need to know what their plan is going to be."

She said the group will continue to lobby the Tory government for change, but both it and the Opposition Liberals have not replied to her requests for a discussion.

Her group has launched a crowdfunding effort to keep the clinic open. The group exceeded its goal of raising $100,000 but it remains unclear whether that will allow for the resumption of abortions at the facility as negotiations to reach a lease agreement continue with the building's owners.

Pye said the facility will have to be a full-time clinic offering a range of reproductive health services beyond abortion in order for it to survive in the long term.

Opponents of abortion have expressed cautious optimism since the Morgentaler Clinic announced in April it was shutting down.

"I don't think we can call it a victory because we don't know what the ultimate outcome is going to be," said Beth Crouchman, president of New Brunswick Right to Life.

Crouchman said she will continue to try to educate the public on the group's stance against abortions.

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