When the New Brunswick provincial campaign was formally launched on August 18, all three party leaders agreed the Sept. 22 election would be decided on economic issues. But in the months leading up to the dropping of the writ, abortion funding had become a hot political issue because the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton announced it was closing due to it being excluded from taxpayer funding of abortion in the province.
Abortion advocates vowed to make abortion funding an election issue and the Liberal Party of New Brunswick approved two resolutions expanding abortion rights at their April policy convention. The resolutions called for “access to a full range of publicly funded family planning information and services” and to “improve access to reproductive health services that meet national standards and respect the Canada Health Act.”
The province enacted a policy in 1989 under former Liberal premier Frank McKenna that required abortions be approved by a second doctor in order to be covered by the provincial health plan. Because most private abortion mills do not have more than one doctor working at a time, it effectively meant the Morgentaler abortuary would not receive taxpayer funding.
Liberal delegate Wendy Robbins who drafted the resolutions called the new policy, “a clear signal that the party’s moving beyond the position it’s held in the past.”
While Liberal leader Brian Gallant supports expanding abortion funding, he has not required all Liberal MLA candidates to support the policy.
Gallant said he is “personally pro-choice” and will “move swiftly to address this issue (of funding) in a comprehensive way.”
Kathleen Pye, chair of Reproductive Justice NB, is unhappy with the provincial Liberals, saying they needed to be clear and more outspoken about funding abortion so that the Morgentaler facility might reopen under new management.
Federal Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc (Beausejour), who is co-chair of the provincial campaign, wrote to federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose, asking for the federal government to intervene because, he argued, the 25-year-old law contravenes the accessibility principle of the Canada Health Act.
David Alward and his Progressive Conservative government have vowed to maintain the status quo.