N.B. medical groups call for greater abortion access following Clinic 554 closure

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New Brunswick medical groups call for greater abortion access following Clinic 554 closure
WATCH: Several New Brunswick advocacy groups are calling on the government to step in and restore access to abortion in the capital region. The calls come amid Clinic 554’s announcement last week that it’s closing its doors. Silas Brown explains. – Feb 5, 2024

Some medical groups are calling on the provincial government to expand access to surgical abortions following the closure of Clinic 554.

Dr. Amanda Black, the president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, says that it’s unacceptable to leave large swaths of the province without local access to surgical abortion procedures.

“It shouldn’t depend on what part of the country you live in, all individuals in Canada should have access to certain levels of reproductive care,” she said.

Clinic 554 announced it would officially close it’s doors last week after nearly a decade long fight to see surgical abortions provided outside of hospital. The clinic’s medical director Dr. Adrian Edgar said that with the clinic’s rent doubling, and the province’s refusal to fund surgical abortions performed outside of hospitals through Medicare, it was impossible to continue.

New Brunswick is the only province that doesn’t allow surgical abortions performed outside of hospital through Medicare. Premier Blaine Higgs has previously called it a “slippery slope” that would push the province towards privatized healthcare. Despite that claim, the province has recently begun funding cataract surgeries done in clinics in Bathurst, Miramichi and Fredericton.

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The policy is being challenged by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who has been granted public interest standing in the case.

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Doctors in the province are able to perform medical abortions through prescriptions of Myfegymiso, also referred to as the abortion pill. But Black says that true access involves choice, which can be robbed by forcing people to travel.

“It may not be the right choice or the right option for all individuals and that can be for medical reasons, geographic issues, or for personal reasons,” she said.

“Women should have the choice of which option she wants, be it surgical or medical.”

The New Brunswick Medical Society has long called for the province to change the policy preventing the funding of out of hospital surgical abortions. Society president Dr. Paula Keating said the closure of Clinic 554 represents another barrier to access.

“Unfortunately, the closure of Clinic 554 in Fredericton further challenges what limited access New Brunswick patients have,” she said in a statement.

“Physicians feel strongly that necessary health services, especially those that require timely intervention, must be readily available to all New Brunswickers. Sexual and reproductive health care requires a comprehensive strategy to ensure access and equity. While limiting barriers to abortion is vitally important, it is only one part of this strategy.”

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Shannon Hardy is the founder of Abortion Support Services Atlantic (ASSA), an organization that helps arrange transportation, accommodation and support for those seeking reproductive care.

Hardy founded ASSA in 2012 and says that it’s unfortunate that their work is still necessary.

“I feel like we’re moving backwards. We sort of make some strides, then move backwards,” they said. “The reality is it just shows us, we can’t stop. There’s never, at least in the near future, going to be a point where we’re like, ‘OK, we won, let’s focus on something else.'”

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