New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs has resisted federal pressure to fund the province’s only private abortion facility, Clinic 554, in Fredericton.
Last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the provincial government had an “obligation” to extend abortion funding to the private facility and in February, federal Health Minister Patti Hadju filed a report with Parliament about New Brunswick not paying for abortions in private facilities, saying “if they don’t come into compliance with the Canada Health Act, they will be subject to deductions as appropriate for the specific infraction.” She said that if the issue was not resolved by the end of March, the province would see reductions in its Canada Health Transfer.
In March, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that federal health transfers to New Brunswick were being reduced by $140,216. Hadju said that the amount was determined by what Clinic 554 claimed were out-of-pocket expenses for those who sought abortions at the facility in 2017-2018.
In 2020, New Brunswick will receive $860 million in health transfer payments.
The federal Liberal government is adamant the Canada Health Actrequires provinces to fund all abortions, including those at private abortuaries. Hadju said in February, “If they don’t come into compliance with the Canada Health Act, they will be subject to deductions as appropriate for the specific infraction.”
Prime Minister Jean Chretien also threatened to withhold health transfers to New Brunswick in the 1990s when the governments of Liberal premier Frank McKenna and Progressive Conservative premier Bernard Lord likewise refused to fund abortions committed in private abortion mills. Under New Brunswick law, government funding for abortion in the province is only provided to those committed at hospitals. In a Jan. 29 letter to Clinic 554, N.B. Health Minister Ted Flemming said the government is “currently not considering any legislative billing changes.”
After Hadju announced the reduction in payments to the province, Higgs said in a press conference that “we’re not funding a private clinic in New Brunswick,” adding “we’re meeting the Canada Health rules and the Canada Health Act.”
David Cooke, Campaign Life Coalition’s national campaigns manager, said CLC applauds Higgs’ stand against Ottawa. “This is a real win for the pro-life cause,” Cooke said. “In the face of enormous pressure from the one-sided mainstream media and the vocal pro-abort lobby, New Brunswick has held fast in denying taxpayer funding to a private, for-profit, financially failing, pre-born baby slaughterhouse.”
In December 2019, CLC launched a petition encouraging Higgs to stand his ground against federal pressure to fund private abortions. Later that month, Cooke went to New Brunswick to present Higgs with the names of more than 2,200 who signed the petition.
Clinic 554 is the original site of the Henry Morgentaler Fredericton abortuary, and was bought, in 2015, by a husband and wife team of Adrian Edgar, a family doctor, and Valerie Edelman, a social worker, after it was briefly closed by the Morgentaler Foundation following the abortionist’s 2013 death. The private, for-profit abortion facility has long lobbied for full funding and has had financial woes for much of its 25-year history.
On April 13, Maclean’sran a puff-piece about the rainbow-painted Clinic 554, whose owners have for at least the third time in the past two years told reporters they may be forced to close if the New Brunswick government does not fund abortions at their facility. Reporter Lindsay Jones noted that Edgar, the 37-year-old abortionist, would “routinely” pay out-of-pocket for women who could not afford to cover their own abortions. Edgar told Maclean’s, “I can’t pay for abortions anymore. I’m just a family doctor trying to keep doing health care for people without the government agreeing to reimburse me.”
The couple has put Clinic 554 up for sale and says that it may have to close if taxpayer funding is not forthcoming soon.
According to media reports, the facility has carried out more than 1,000 abortions since it re-opened in 2015. The facility, which is also a family practice, currently has 600 patients, including “many” self-identified transgender and HIV-positive patients.
Cooke said in a message to CLC’s New Brunswick supporters in April that Clinic 554 repeatedly threatens to close if it doesn’t get funding.
Taxpayer-funded abortions are committed in at least three provincially-run hospitals including two in Moncton (the Moncton Hospital and the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre) and the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst. The province pays for the abortion drug Mifegymiso. Hadju bases the decision to punish New Brunswick by withholding health transfers on what she claims are regions that do not have abortion access.
Cooke said that CLC will fight to “ensure that one day not a single dime of taxpayer money will fund abortions” in New Brunswick and “that abortion will not be the law of the land anymore in Canada.”
Higgs has been premier since 2018, since his party joined the People’s Alliance party to defeat the pro-abortion government of Liberal premier Brian Gallant.
On April 9, Hadju announced the health funding was temporarily restored after the outbreak of the coronavirus. Hajdu’s spokesman Cole Davidson said, “we will ensure that the New Brunswick government eliminates patient charges for abortion services outside of hospitals.”
Cole also said discussions between Ottawa and Fredericton about taxpayer funding of private abortions will continue. N.B. Health Minister Flemming maintains that the province is abiding the Canada Health Act.