Chapter 7 of the federal budget is titled, “A more equal Canada,” and within it is a section “Supporting access to sexual and reproductive health care information and services,” in which the government asserts, “All Canadians should have access to a full suite of sexual and reproductive health resources and services, no matter where they live.” To this end, it says, “the Government is committed to collaboration with provinces and territories to strengthen our health care system, ensuring equitable and appropriate access to a full suite of reproductive and sexual health services, in any upcoming Canada Health Transfer funding discussions.”
The budget claimed that “currently, women, youth, LGBTQ2 people, racialized Canadians, and Indigenous populations face the highest sexual and reproductive health risks and the greatest barriers to accessing support, information, and services.”
The budget centered out New Brunswick for attention, saying that Clinic 554 in Fredericton, “show us that lack of funding puts access to sexual and reproductive health care at risk.”
Every New Brunswick government, Liberal or Progressive Conservative, has refused to fund abortions committed outside hospitals.
Last year, the federal government withheld $140,000 from health transfer payments to New Brunswick, with federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu claiming the province was contravening the Canada Health Act by refusing to cover out-of-hospital abortions. The current government of Blaine Higgs says it does not want to open the door to private health care and is examining how to increase abortion access outside two municipalities where hospitals commit abortions.
In January, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association launched a lawsuit against the province, seeking to require the government pay for roughly 200 abortions per year committed at Clinic 554.
The government maintains it is not violating the Canada Health Act (CHA), and said the province will fight the lawsuit.
After the budget was tabled, Higgs condemned the federal government’s heavy-handedness. He said they are delivering an ultimatum. Higgs said if the federal government believes New Brunswick is violating the CHA, it should take the province to court. “If they really believe that we are not meeting the access requirements, which we understand are necessary and appropriate to do so, then they would be taking us to court on it and solve it the way the program is identified,” he said. “If we’re violating the Canada Health Act, then there is a mechanism to deal with that.”
Higgs said it was wrong to threaten “the health care of every citizen in this province” by holding the “funding model” hostage to a negotiation over funding a private abortion facility.
Jeff Gunnarson, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim that he is not surprised that the Trudeau government is using the carrot of federal health transfers to force provinces to pay for all abortions. “This is the most pro-abortion government in Canadian history, and now they are trying to force other levels of government to share their enthusiasm for killing unborn children.”
The Trudeau government is also committing to $45 million in funding over three years to “improve access to sexual and reproductive health care support, information, and services—including protecting access to abortion care” by funding “community-based organizations that help make sexual and reproductive health care information and services more accessible for vulnerable populations.” Funding would be used to pay for public awareness campaigns and provide logistical and travel support to individuals from remote communities.
Ottawa will also fund $7.6 million over five years to help Statistics Canada to “develop and implement a national survey on sexual and reproductive health that captures data on race, household income, and sexual orientation,” which is currently missing in abortion surveys. The goal, the budget document says, is that with “better information … governments (will) understand the challenges and improve the support they provide.”