The Morgentaler challenge to the New Brunswick policy on abortion funding was heard February 14, 1989 in the Court of Queen’s Bench, Fredericton, N.B., under Justice William Stevenson. Eugene Mockler, lawyer for Morgentaler, argued that Morgentaler had or should have legal standing to pursue this case.
New Brunswick’s lawyer, William Anderson, presented a very narrow case restricted to ‘standing,’ and existing New Brunswick legislation. Unfortunately, he did not challenge the biased interpretations contained in Mockler’s expanded arguments. This may have left the judge with the unfortunate impression that these arguments were in fact acceptable.
At one point, Judge Stevenson asked Mr. Mockler, “Is there any evidence before me that Dr. Morgentaler performed entitled services?” Judge Stevenson asked again, “Is there any evidence before me that they (abortions) were medically required?” They can be; but not all abortions are medically required.” Mockler responded with the World Health Organization’s definition of health and selected quotes from the 1988 Supreme Court ruling on Morgentaler and concluded that every abortion is, in fact, medically required. Judge Stevenson said, “Well if the Supreme Court says so, then I guess I have to accept it.” Unfortunately, Anderson failed to respond to this critical and vulnerable point and simply allowed the Morgenalter arguments to stand.
In short, the case presented by the Province appeared to be very narrow and unnecessarily weak. Anderson summed up his position when he said to the media that “the government of the province hasn’t done anything to impede the right of a woman to have an abortion.” The Court challenge was preceded by a well attended candle light service the previous evening. Clergy leading in prayers represented United Baptist, United Church, Roman Catholic and Anglican communities of faith.
On the day of the hearing, a dozen pro-lifers protested abortions outside the Fredericton court house.