The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission will hold hearings on whether the province’s abortion funding policy is a violation of the human rights of women. The National Post and Telegraph-Journal have reports. Under New Brunswick’s Medical Services Payment Act the province will only pay for abortions committed at hospitals and which are referred by a family doctor. The NB HRC is not making public who filed the complaint but abortion advocates and feminists complain that the restrictions are onerous, that too few hospitals do abortions, and that the policy results in women paying out of pocket for abortions done at the Morgentaler abortion facility in Fredericton. Randy Dickinson, chairman of the NB HRC, said “there is sufficient evidence to send it to an official board of inquiry” which will probably be held behind closed doors because of the sensitivity of the issue.

There is so much wrong with this turn of events. HRCs should not be deciding the funding of medical procedures on human rights grounds. This is properly within the domain of the health care bureaucracy and elected officials. Furthermore, when public policy as important as abortion funding is being decided, it should be as open and transparent as possible, yet the NB HRC has decided to withhold the complainants name(s) and to hold the hearings in secret. If elected representatives tried to determine abortion policy behind closed doors, the public would quite correctly be outraged.

I hope that the new Progressive Conservative government in NB stands firm, mounts the best possible defense against this complaint and considers all legislative possibilities to ensure that the HRC doesn’t decide this issue on behalf of New Brunswick’s taxpayers. In the meantime, the province is being taken to court by Henry Morgentaler over its principled and pragmatic refusal to fund abortions at private facilities.