FREDERICTON – The sole abortion provider in New Brunswick’s capital announced their impending closure this week.
With abortion rights at the centre of the ongoing federal election, the clinic’s closure highlights the access issues facing hundreds of thousands of people across the country. New Brunswick is the only province that refuses to pay for or reimburse patients for abortion services performed outside of hospitals – despite this being in violation of the Canada Health Act. Of the three hospitals that provide the service in the province, none are in Fredericton. Clinic 554 is for sale in the face of financial uncertainty and would be forced to stop operations within 90 days of purchase.
“I'm sick of New Brunswick abandoning pregnant patients in their time of need. I can't believe that our Premier won't do anything to bring this province in line with the Canada Health Act. We're living in a state of legislated misogyny that should horrify every Canadian and every candidate in this election,” said Dr. Adrian Edgar, Medical Director of Clinic 554.
“During this election, the conversation has focused on ‘reopening the debate’ on abortion, rather than the real crisis at hand: access. It’s sad and insulting. Our leaders are playing political football with our health and rights, instead of taking real action,” added Sarah Kennell, Director of Government Relations at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, the national reproductive rights organization.
"I take calls every week from women who need abortions and don't have anyone to turn to. Stigma, poverty, lack of childcare, gender-based violence, and difficulty accessing basic health care are shared experiences among these women. Many are single mothers who are barely getting by, while others are experiencing addiction and mental illness. Since the government would not cover an abortion in their own community, Clinic 554 did. Without the clinic, they won’t have a place to go," said Valerie Edelman of Clinic 554.
While the stigma around funding abortion services has led to the clinic’s closure, Clinic 554 provided a full range of primary care health services, including cervical cancer screenings, gender-affirming care for transgender patients, and treatments for survivors of sexual assault. Clinic 554 also provides pre- and post-natal care to people without family doctors and opiate agonist therapy for people with addictions. Its closure will mean one less family doctor in New Brunswick, leaving a massive hole in the medical treatments available in the community and the entire province.
“For too long, the province of New Brunswick has been allowed to escape their obligations under the Act – and this is the consequence: the only place where people can get an abortion in the province’s capital is closing,” said Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada.
Action Canada and Clinic 554 say they expect the next federal government to take swift, decisive action on October 22nd to hold New Brunswick accountable under the Canada Health Act by immediately withholding health transfers to the province until they fund abortion care outside of hospital settings.
Note: As of 2020, Clinic 554 has closed, but abortion care is still available in New Brunswick. With the continuation of Regulation 84-20, surgical abortion is only available in the province in hospital settings.
Director of Government Relations, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights