FREDERICTON – Premier Brian Gallant’s surprise decision to abolish the need for women to have two doctors approve an abortion is raising many questions.
While pro-choice groups say the decision is groundbreaking, they’re left wondering just how it’s going to work.
“What does this mean? What is this going to look like? What is this going to look like practically?” asked Jessi Taylor, a member of Reproductive Justice N.B. “As much as they’ve abolished the law in the legislature they haven’t actually changed everything in practice.”
Gallant made the surprise announcement Wednesday in Fredericton, saying the planned amendments mean women will no longer have to get the approval of two doctors before having an abortion.
The procedure will also no longer have to be done by a specialist, meaning access could become more timely as more doctors will be able to do it.
“As a province, we have a responsibility to respect women’s rights by providing this procedure in a safe environment like any other insured service under medicare,” he said.
The changes will come into effect Jan. 1.
On that day, hospitals will be allowed to perform abortions – not clinics.
Regional health authorities Vitalité and Horizon are discussing with the government which hospitals will provide the service, the cost of adding the service and how they will provide the procedure.
“If you look at an increase in the number of procedures, we’re looking at infrastructure allocation, these are done in the operating room, as well you look at the human resources that come into play, we’re looking at the physicians or specialists that do the procedure, the support staff, the nursing staff,” said Vitalité media relations advisor, Luc Foulem.
“So, cost does come into play.”
Right now, Vitalité provides the service in their Bathurst and Moncton hospitals. In the past year, 475 abortions were performed within those hospitals.
But for Horizon Health, this will be an entirely new service. They’ll have to train doctors who are willing to do the procedure.
“Horizon Health Network has been in discussions with physicians across the organization to determine the level of interest to provide such services,” said Brent Roy, director public affairs for Horizon Health.
Access only in hospitals, not clinics
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick said Thursday privacy could be an issue when providing this service within hospitals.
“Going to a hospital is like going to the airport,” said Dr. Ed Schollenberg, Registrar at the College.
Schollenberg said those seeking the service will have to be entered into the system and that might not be something everyone is comfortable with.
Taylor agrees, saying a clinic provides more privacy.
“When you have personnel who work in a hospital, they don’t get to choose whether or not they provide abortion services and so if you have someone who’s anti-choice who’s forced to do this, often that gets taken out in very punitive ways on the patient, whether intentionally or unintentionally,” said Taylor.
“That doesn’t happen in clinics, because the only people who work in clinics are people who really want to work there.”