MONCTON – The provincial government has released the province’s new abortion regulation but advocates say the new rule does not address a requirement for access.
The changes were announced by Premier Brian Gallant on Nov. 26, but the changes officially came into effect on Jan. 1.
The requirements that an abortion be “performed by a specialist in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology” and that “two medical practitioners certify in writing that the abortion was medically required” have been removed.
Instead, the legislation now states an abortion will be covered if it is “performed in a hospital facility approved by the jurisdiction in which the hospital facility is located.”
But it’s up to the two health authorities to determine how they will provide the procedure.
Right now, both hospitals that provide abortions in the province are managed by Vitalité Health Network: the Dr. Georges L Dumont Regional Hospital in Moncton and the Bathurst Chaleur Regional Hospital.
Spokesperson Luc Foulem said there is no plan to add to that number but what has changed is the way people can access the abortion clinics.
“Her first point of contact can be directly with our family planning clinics instead of going through a process of going through a family physician,” he said.
Foulem said the whole process from initial contact to having the procedure takes between two and three weeks.
He said it is premature for Vitalité to look at expanding the availability of the procedure.
“We don’t know at this point in time what our colleagues at Horizon Health Network will be doing, so there are a few too many variables at this point for us to justify making some infrastructure changes,” he said.
Vitalité will reassess in six months.
Amely Friolet-O’Neil, the executive director of the Regroupement Féministe du Nouveau Brunswick, said these changes don’t address their worries.
“If, let’s say, you’re a woman in Edmunston, you will have to drive about three hours to be able to have that initial consultation,” she said.
John McGarry, CEO of Horizon Health Network, said in an e-mail that Horizon is developing plans to provide access to abortions.
“Since this service was not previously offered by Horizon, issues such as space, staffing, protocols and identifying physicians to provide the service are currently being addressed,” he said. “Horizon hopes to begin offering the service in April. Patients seeking services in the meantime should continue to contact their health care provider for referral.”
Horizon does not currently provide abortion services at any of its hospitals.
The new regulation hasn’t changed the rule that requires abortions be done in hospitals. Most abortions performed in the province were done at the private Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton before it closed in July.