Provincial announcements concerning abortion have been coming almost daily since the Supreme Court judgment of January 28. The information given below is correct as of February 29.
Premier William Vander Zalm has announced that the province will only pay for abortion if it is necessary to save the life of the mother. No exceptions will be allowed for rape, incest or a possibly handicapped child.
B.C will not allow freestanding abortion clinics to be opened. Although Therapeutic Abortion Committees (TACs) have been abolished, any hospital abortions will have to be approved by at least two doctors.
Provincial medicare pays doctors between $106 and $175 per abortion, hospital costs are an additional $200. The Chairman of the Greater Victoria Hospital Society has said that women paying for their own abortions will be charged $456 if they require an overnight hospital stay and $205 if it is done in a day surgery. Doctors would earn $153 up to 14 weeks of conception and $229 afterwards. Anesthetists will get $40 for up to 15 minutes’ work, $50 if it takes longer.
This decision is already under attack from pro-abortion women’s groups and the B.C Civil Liberties Association has already applied to the provincial Supreme Court to grant an injunction against the policy. The Women’s Legal Education Action Fund is also expected to challenge the policy under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In addition to making the strongest provincial statement in restricting abortions, the B.C Social Credit government has pledged to undertake a $1.5 media campaign to publicize the alternatives to abortion.
The number of abortions performed in Alberta hospitals has declined significantly in the past few months, due to the government banning extra billing by doctors. Many doctors refused to perform abortions, saying that the $84.75 medicare fee was not enough.
Following Black Thursday, the Conservative government announced that only abortions deemed as “medically necessary” and performed in hospitals would be covered by medicare. A second opinion, preferably from a specialist, will be required before an abortion is approved,
No abortions were performed in Alberta during the recent nurses’ strike when nurses refused to assist in any surgery that was not an emergency.
The Conservative government has announced it will fund only those abortions where the life of the pregnant women is in danger or where it is considered a “medical necessity.” Premier Grant Devine says the province will no approve the abortion clinics nor will it fund abortion on demand.
Women will not have to leave the province to get abortions, the Premier said, because they will be legally available in hospitals. Even if the women have to pay for an abortion themselves, he added, it will, still be cheaper than traveling elsewhere. Doctors are currently paid between $85 and $90 for the abortion. Hospital costs make the total between $200 and $300.
Just how many abortions will be considered “medially necessary” and government funded, remains to be seen. Devine is leaving it to doctors to make the decision, noting only that, “life threatening situations or necessity can include a combination of factors.”
The provincial government is planning regulations to protect health care workers who do not wish to be involved in abortion. It also intends to “encourage” stronger education and counseling programmes for women seeking abortions.
Manitoba’s NDP government has disbanded all TAC’s and announced that it will continue to pay $133.50 for abortions done in freestanding clinics as well as hospitals.
Health Minister Wilson Parasiuk has said that the government will ensure “equitable access” to abortion across the province through hospitals and community health centers. While the government intends to encourage “ non-profit” clinics, if Henry Morgentaler’s Winnipeg clinic receives a license from the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons, abortions performed there will be covered by medicare.
Dr. James Morrison, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons said that the Morgentaler clinic probably, would be licensed, providing it meets safety standards.
The Winnipeg clinic has remained closed since 1983, when police laid criminal charges and seized all equipment. Charges were dropped after the Supreme Court decision and the equipment will be returned. Morgentaler expects to be open for business by April.
Health Minister Eleanor Caplan has announced that Ontario is an abortion-on-demand province. Her only restriction is to tell U.S abortion entrepreneurs that they are not welcome to set up business.
While Ontario Liberal government does not want “commercial, for profit” clinics, Caplan has said that Morgentaler’s so far unaccredited clinic will be compensated under medicare. Morgentaler will bill OHIP for the provincial rate of $100.30 for abortions, although he will continue to charge women $300. HE is telling his clients to submit their bills of $200 to OHIP for compensation. Extra billing is banned under the Canada Health Act and if health ministry officials decide Morgentaler extra bills, he will be charged $50 each time he does it.
Caplan has said that no hospitals will be forced to perform abortions and is moving ahead to implement a province-wide system of women’s health care centers announced last year. The advantage, in political eyes, of centers offering a wide range of services to women is that it is more difficult for pro-lifer counselors to approach women since they are not immediately identified as seeking abortion.
Black Thursday has not had an impact in Quebec where abortions have been covered by medicare since 1976. The only change announced so far is that payments made to private clinics will be raised from $84 to $125. In 1986, the provincial government paid out $6000,000 in fees to doctors performing abortions.
Two rocks were thrown through windows at Morgentaler’s Montreal clinic following Black Thursday. A worker said it was the first such incident in 13 years and announced that they had a busy day that Friday. They performed 25 abortions, three of them on women who had come without appointments.
John Buchanan’s Conservative government has disbanded hospital TACs but announced that, medicare will only, cover abortions, done in hospitals, private clinics are not wanted.
Health Minister Joel Matheson has met with pro-life groups and heard their reasons for removing abortion fees from medicare. Provincial health insurance currently pays $134.25.
Premier Buchanan reacted very strongly in 1985 when Morgentaler said he was considering opening a clinic in Halifax. Buchanan announced that any member of his caucus who took a pro- abortion position would be expelled from caucus.
New Brunswick’s liberal government has announced that it will cover the costs of abortions ( $120 is paid) under certain circumstances. The abortion must be medically necessary, a second opinion will be required, and it can only be done in a hospital by a gynecologist or obstetrician.
Only three of New Brunswick’s 36 hospitals perform abortions and the provincial government will continue its practice of paying for out-of-province abortions, provided they involve a referral from a New Brunswick doctor.
Henry Morgentaler has offered to act as a consultant to the province in setting up clinics and training staff, Premier McKenna, however says Morgentaler will face “ the fight of his life from us” if he tries to open a clinic there.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island looks likely to remain an abortion-free province because no hospital on this island will perform them.
Following Black Thursday, the Conservative government announced that medicare would pay for “ medically necessary “ abortions in hospital but the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown said it would maintain its no-abortion policy.
Health Minister Keith Milligan stated that the government would not put pressure on the islands seven hospitals because abortions were accessible on the mainland. The government will pay for out-of-province abortions, provided a three-doctor committee authorizes them as medically necessary.
The abortion rate in Newfoundland is low because until recently only one doctor was willing to perform them. Following the Supreme Court judgment, a second doctor came forward to announce she is willing to do abortions.
St. Johns General is the only hospital to provide abortions, although all three of the province’s hospitals have abolished their TACs.
The government has said that health insurance will continue to pay $84.50 for an abortion but has not stated its policy on freestanding clinics.