Measure would stop Ottawa from using

Canada Health Act to bully provinces

Pro-life MP Elsie Wayne (PC, Saint John) has committed to introducing a private member’s bill that would prevent the Canada Health Act (CHA) from being used to pressure provinces to fund abortions.

Wayne is responding to a letter sent by New Brunswick Right to Life President Peter Ryan to the province’s 10 MPs which raised concerns about the federal government reading into the CHA a pro-abortion interpretation. His letter offered two remedies, either that abortion be added to the list of what is not included as “insured health services” or prohibiting of any regulation defining insured health services without the consent of each of the 10 provinces. Ryan acknowledged that provinces could still pay for abortions at hospitals or private abortuaries, but that such decisions would not be dictated by Ottawa.

James Hughes, executive assistant to Wayne, told The Interim the bill would address two issues. One is the fact that abortion is not a medically necessary procedure, the other being the federal government’s overstepping its bounds and interfering in what is rightly an area of provincial jurisdiction. “The federal government cannot force provinces to establish health priorities they do not agree with,” Hughes said.

Ryan said the principles of the CHA are abided by when provinces choose not to fund abortion at private clinics or hospitals because the Act does not grant the federal government the power to dictate health care funding priorities. Wayne’s bill, Ryan told The Interim, “wouldn’t be radical,” because it would reinforce “what any reasonable person would understand the Canada Health Act to mean in the first place.” By clarifying the CHA, Ryan said the federal government could no longer “use it as a sledgehammer to require abortion funding.”

Ryan said abortion is not medically necessary, noting the mantra of abortion supporters is that abortion is all about choice. “It is completely arbitrary; pro-abortionists are willing to adopt any language or rationale to promote abortion.”

Wayne is currently working with a parliamentary committee that assists in the drafting of legislation and Hughes said he hopes the private members’ bill will be dealt with before the end of the year, though he said it would not be addressed before the summer. While private member’s bills are rarely successful, he reported other pro-life MPs are “receptive” and that the office has received letters of support from the public.

The bill would recognize the province’s claim to determine on their own what medical procedures they would fund and how. After the news broke about the pressure exerted on NB, including the threat to withhold healthcare funding if the province doesn’t bend to Ottawa’s demands, it was revealed the federal government is also pressuring Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. Ottawa currently withholds some healthcare transfer payments from Nova Scotia for its refusal to fully fund private abortuaries and successfully forced Manitoba to capitulate and fund Henry Morgentaler’s Winnipeg abortuary.

Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas told The Interim this latest flare up in the abortion debate looks like a payout to Morgentaler for his endorsement of the Liberal Party a week before the November 27 federal election. Just two weeks after the election, New Brunswick Health Minister Dennis Furlong reported being pressured by federal Health Minister Allan Rock to fund private abortuaries.

‘Hypocrisy of Liberals’

Douglas also pointed to the hypocrisy of the federal government coercing provinces to fund private abortuaries while at the same time threatening provinces that fund private clinics that provide legitimate healthcare services such as MRIs for cancer diagnosis. She wondered why “the government is funding a non-necessary, non-medical lifestyle choice while preventing thousands of people on waiting lists from receiving the medical care they need.”

The New Brunswick Health and Wellness Ministry said they are following both the letter and the spirit of the CHA. Patricia Hyland, communications director for the ministry, told The Interim that “our policy complies with the Canada Health Act,” noting the CHA does not require province’s to fund private abortion centres.

Hyland said both levels of government are now reviewing the issue and that the province is asking for the federal health ministry’s rationale for the funding of private abortuaries in writing. Ryan said such a move is cause for concern because it signals the province might be open to be being persuaded to fund private abortuaries.

In the meantime, Wayne hopes to meet with representatives of other provinces to raise the issue of jurisdictional interference. “She is pursuing this vigorously,” Hughes said.