Amid a media storm that it would close its doors in July without public funding, the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton has announced it is dropping its lawsuit against the province of New Brunswick. The abortion mill launched the lawsuit in 2002 to gain taxpayer funding for abortions done at the private facility, but after 12 years of legal wrangling the case has yet to see the inside of a courtroom for anything other than procedural matters.
The facility was trying to overturn Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act, which provides medicare coverage of abortion only in cases when two doctors certify the procedure is medically necessary, therefore effectively limiting provincial coverage of abortion only to those done in hospitals.
The late abortionist Henry Morgentaler claimed the funding provision violated the 1988 Supreme Court decision which threw out the 1969 federal abortion law and its therapeutic committees. He also said requiring two doctors to okay an abortion is a “barrier to access” for women seeking the procedure at private facilities.
Simone Leibovitch, manager of the Fredericton abortuary that opened in 1994, said that Morgentaler had the financial means to pay the legal bills, but the facility itself does not.
The week before the announcement that the case would be dropped, the abortuary made national news when Leibovitch said it would close its doors permanently in July if it did not receive medicare funds because she claimed the facility was losing money.
According to the Morgentaler Clinic website, it charges $700 for an abortion carried out on women less than 14 weeks pregnant and $850 for abortions on women 14 to16 weeks pregnant. There are reports that abortion mill carries out 500 abortions per year.
Leibovitch told the CBC that “it breaks my heart to have to do this,” in reference to her decision to close the abortion mill in the summer. “I’m not sure what women are going to do after we leave.”
New Brunswick Health Minister Ted Flemming issued a statement that said the Conservative government, like every government in the province for the past three decades, will uphold the restrictions, but noted, “Women will continue to have access to medically necessary abortions in the province with the approval of two physicians” in provincial hospitals.
Peter Ryan, executive director of the New Brunswick Right to Life Association, which operates the Women’s Care Centre next door to Morgentaler’s, issued a statement saying that women could come to their facility. He noted, “the center offers non-judgmental compassionate support, medical information including an early pregnancy ultrasound, and empowers them to make a non-pressured informed decision about their pregnancy.”
Ryan called the announcement of the facility’s closure in three months a “stunt” intended to put pressure on the provincial government to rescind Regulation 84-20 or otherwise loosen hospital restrictions, or to find a new private funder for their facility. Ryan said, “the fact the announcing closing date is July suggests they are in fact running a trial balloon,” and he suggested the facility might not ever close.
But if it does indeed close up shop, that will be a dream fulfilled for Ryan. He told the CBC, “when we bought this place,” speaking of the Women’s Care Centre, “my hope and prayer was that we would outlast them, and that’s still my hope and prayer.”