On Oct. 26, Henry Morgentaler called upon the Québec government to fully fund abortion performed at private clinics in the province.

According to the National Post, Morgentaler complained that the federal government covers the full $450 cost of clinic abortions for refugee claimants, but citizens in Québec must pay a facility fee of around $400. The province does cover some of the cost of abortions at private clinics, including a $104 doctor’s fee and a $40 facility fee to help pay overhead costs.

Morgentaler claims that by not funding private clinics, women are waiting for hospital abortions, and that those waits result in later and thus more dangerous abortions. There are 49 facilities that perform abortions in Quebec, including 30 hospitals, five private clinics, 11 community health centers and three other locations.

Morgentaler’s Montréal franchise does an average of 38 abortions per week. Full funding of abortion in the province would put approximately another $1 million of taxpayer money into Morgentaler’s pockets.

Campagne Québec-Vie President Gilles Grondin told The Interim that the province must not make abortion any easier than it already is.

Noting that there are approximately 30,000 abortions in Québec each year, and that the province has applied to Ottawa for 33,000 immigrants next year in order to maintain its economy, Grondin said that it is clear Québec is “committing cultural suicide. The chance of Québec’s survival is thus directly connected to promoting a pro-life mentality,” he said.

In a letter to Premier Lucien Bouchard Nov. 17, Grondin remarked, “One could reasonably ask how under these circumstances you can hope to attain your principle goal of a ‘sovereign Québec, master of its destiny.'”

“It is absolutely certain,” Grondin continued, “that a move on the part of your health minister to give in to the demands of the private abortionists would imply that our demographic situation is not as grave as the specialists (among them Prof. Jacques Henripin of the Université de Montréal and pollster Jean-Marc Léger) have been telling us for years, and that, as a consequence, we can continue down the slippery slope of the culture of death with impunity.”

Grondin concluded his letter by urging Premier Bouchard to spend the province’s surplus on increasing the family allowance, not abortion funding: “If you devote your surpluses to giving more money to Morgentaler and company, your political credibility will very regrettably be greatly diminished.”

Using statistics and figures compiled from the websites of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) and Henry Morgentaler, independent health researcher Isabelle Bégin reports that Morgentaler makes at least $17,083,764 per year from his abortion franchises across the country. There are approximately 28,133 abortions committed in his clinics each year, at an average cost of $607.25. These figures do not include Morgentaler’s Edmonton facility, for which numbers are not available.

As the Toronto Free Press reported recently, Morgentaler’s lucrative private sector “health” industry is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, and in Ontario the government is even providing $5 million to pay the rent on his upscale Toronto abortuary – which highlights an interesting question: Why is a private enterprise offering a “health service” getting public funds?

Neil Seeman, the Director of Health Policy for the Free Trade Medical Network and an editorial writer at the National Post, told The Interim that Morgentaler’s latest effort to get the whole cost of abortion paid for is nothing more than “profit-seeking” because the “fees go straight into his pocket.”

The Canada Health Act requires that provinces fund procedures which the provinces deem “medically necessary,” and forbids the funding of such procedures in private facilities. Since virtually all the provinces pay for abortions through their public health insurance plans, it should follow that public funding of private abortion clinics is illegal.

Seeman, who supports the privatization of health care services, said the abortion issue exposes “the inherent political nature of public decisions about what services should and shouldn’t be funded.” He said most Canadians probably think abortion shouldn’t be funded, especially to the extent that it already is. Yet abortion actually enjoys a privileged position, since it alone is covered by taxpayer dollars even outside public health care facilities.

Several years ago when Alberta tried to allow some privatization of health services covered under medicare, the federal government interfered and threatened to cut off medicare dollars. Seeman noted that apparently, “Health Minister Allan Rock doesn’t feel impelled to write a letter when there is private funding of abortion.”

ABORTION FUNDING IN CANADAAbout 30 per cent of the more than 100,000 abortions each year are performed in private clinics, and the majority of those are in Henry Morgentaler’s eight facilities in St. John’s, Halifax, Frederiction, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

British Columbia funds more than 3,000 clinic abortions every year. Campaign Life Coalition B.C. president John Hof said B.C. funds everything including clinic security. The province also funds pro-abortion lobby groups to the tune of $25,000 a year.

Alberta has funded abortion through regional health authorities with contracts to hospitals and private clinics since 1996, following healthcare reform enacted by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. The Capital Health Authority has contracted with Morgentaler’s Edmonton clinic. No figures for the number of abortions or total cost are available.

Saskatchewan has no private clinics although Morgentaler threatened to open one in Regina if the province’s hospitals didn’t increase abortion access. According to Saskatchewan Health, there were 2,599 abortions performed in the province’s hospitals in 1998-99 (fiscal year) and 312 abortions paid for by the province but performed elsewhere. Those 2,911 abortions cost Saskatchewan taxpayers an estimated $1.6 million. In 1991, the Conservative government of Premier Grant Devine held a plebiscite on abortion funding. A strong majority supported defunding but in 1992 the new NDP Premier Roy Romanow refused, saying it was impossible to defund abortion.

Manitoba pays the doctor’s fees at private clinics, including Morgentaler’s Winnipeg franchise. CLC Manitoba president Niel Slykerman, said he has no numbers for Morgentaler’s clinic, but three Manitoba hospitals provide 3,500 abortions each year.

Ontariohas five private clinics, including two owned by Morgentaler, and both the doctor’s fee and a facility fee are paid. Furthermore, the Northern Health Travel Grants also pays travel expenses for northern Ontario women to get abortions in the more populous southern part of the province. The Interim’s Frank Kennedy discovered that the province has agreed to pay about $5 million over 10 years to cover the rent on Morgentaler’s Toronto franchise.

Quebec pays for doctor’s fees and part of the facility fee. Morgentaler is seeking to have the whole facility fee paid.

New Brunswick pays for hospital abortions approved by two doctors. In June, Morgentaler asked the Tory government to fund clinic abortions, but the premier refused. Morgentaler’s Fredericton clinic performs 2,000 abortions each year at $450 each.

Prince Edward Island will pay the cost of abortions done in hospitals outside the province, and ends up funding fewer than 10 each year. There are no clinics on the Island, and hospitals there do not provide abortions.

Nova Scotia pays for hospital abortions and the doctor’s fee at private clinics. Clients pay $300-500 on top of that at clinics. Morgentaler’s Halifax abortuary kills about 500 babies each year.

Newfoundland now funds hospital and private clinic abortions fully. Morgentaler opened his St. John’s clinic in 1990. At first the government refused to pay for clinic abortions but began paying an $85 doctor’s fees in 1992 after it was discovered that the ministry of social services had flown women outside the province to procure abortions at an expense of $4,000 each. In December 1997, the government began full funding ($500) for clinic abortions.

Former federal Health minister Diane Marleau demanded all provinces pay for both hospital and clinic abortions and set an Oct. 15, 1995 deadline, threatening to withhold transfer funds to obstinate provinces. The Canada Health Act requires provinces to fund “medically necessary” services, but it leaves it to them to determine what those services are, Marleau’s posturing notwithstanding. Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nove Scotia all ignored the deadline. Former Nova Scotia Health Minister Ron Stewart said the province would rather pay the $130,000 federal penalty than fund clinic abortions. P.E.I. maintains that abortion funding is a matter of provincial policy.