On Nov. 26, New Brunswick premier Brian Gallant announced the government would increase abortion access in the province by rescinding Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act, which has been in force for more than two decades and required abortion be approved by two doctors and committed in a hospital to be eligible for taxpayer funding. The Morgentaler abortion mill in Fredericton closed last July after a long but unsuccessful fight for full funding.
No longer will two doctors have to certify that the abortion is medically necessary, nor will a specialist obstetrician/gynecologist have to carry out the procedure. Although any doctor will be able to commit abortions, they will still have to be done in a hospital. The changes go into effect Jan. 1.
Gallant said abortion will be fully tax-funded since it will be put “in the same category as any insured medical service.”
The Premier, who was elected in September, said, “we have identified the barriers and are proceeding to eliminate them in order to respect our legal obligations under the Supreme Court of Canada ruling and the Canada Health Act regarding a woman’s right to choose.”
New Brunswick Right to Life Association president Peter Ryan said in a press release, “no law or Supreme Court ruling has ever stated a province must provide abortion on demand.” He said that “what’s going on is a pro-abortion ideology … being imposed upon New Brunswick.”
Campaign Life Coalition said the new rules “will essentially bring abortion-on-demand, for any reason, or no reason at all, to the province of New Brunswick.” Jim Hughes, national president of CLC, said, “Brian Gallant and the Liberal party of New Brunswick has caved in to the demands of a very loud minority of pro-abortion activists who support tax-payer funded killing of defenseless pre-born human beings, unlike the majority of Canadians.”
Polls conducted by Environics and Abacus Data in recent years show most Canadians support abortion but oppose government funding of the procedure except in cases of medical necessity.
Progressive Conservative leader Bruce Fitch condemned the government for not posting its regulatory change online and not having a public consultation, as the previous Tory government did as a matter of policy. Fitch also said the PCs did not want a change to the regulation: “We were supporters of the status quo, of the two-doctor rule,” Fitch said.
On Dec. 12, the PCs introduced a motion calling on the legislature to debate Gallant’s decision to scrap the abortion regulations. A motion introduced by MLA Dorothy Shephard (Saint John Lancaster) and seconded by MLA Jody Carr (Oromocto), stated “be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the government to cause any changes to abortion services that it has adopted or intends to adopt to be the subject of a debate in the House, and to delay implementation of those changes until that debate has occurred.”
Both NB Right to Life’s Ryan and CLC’s Hughes applauded the Tory motion calling for a democratic debate. Ryan said, “momentous changes proposed should be debated by the Legislative Assembly,” while Hughes called for pro-lifers in the province to speak out against the changes and urge their elected officials to strengthen protection for the unborn.
The NDP and Green parties applauded Gallant’s liberalization of abortion, with Green leader David Coon calling for even more access. “We need to bring health care out of our hospitals and into our communities to be effective and timely, reproductive health care included,” he said.
Gallant said the regulatory changes, which do not have to be voted on by the legislature, will increase access and be the start of expansion of abortion. “The government will also be working with the regional health authorities to increase capacity and improve timeliness to access,” Gallant said in a statement. “The government will also work to improve access to accurate and non-judgmental information.”
Ryan told LifeSiteNews that increasing capacity “can only mean finding more doctors to (do) abortions,” and that he expects the number of abortions in the province to soon double because of the new policy.
However, CLC Youth coordinator Alissa Golob, who led a team of pro-life youth in pamphleting against the Liberals in September, said “even with the current regulation, there was never any evidence that a woman was ever turned down for an abortion in New Brunswick in the first place.”
Meanwhile, Rev. David Edwards, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, wrote a letter to Mr. Gallant, urging him to “reconsider your decision to repeal restrictions on abortion access.” He said, “the issue of abortion is much more than a matter of individual rights; it bears on our ability to recognize, respect, and honour our shared humanity wherever it is found.”
A “Keep the Lights on Campaign for Life” was held Dec. 11 and another scheduled for Dec. 18. The two candlelight vigils outside the legislature were meant to “show solidarity with unborn children and their mothers who would be affected by the proposed changes.”