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New Brunswick Medical Society supports calls for provincial government to fund Clinic 554

Click to play video 'New Brunswick Medical Society supports calls for provincial government to fund Clinic 554' New Brunswick Medical Society supports calls for provincial government to fund Clinic 554
WATCH: The end may be nearing for Fredericton’s Clinic 554, the province's only provider of out-of-hospital abortions. Patients, activists, and the province's medical society are all calling for the government to ensure its funding -- and its future. Megan Yamoah has more – Sep 22, 2020

The New Brunswick Medical Society “fully supports” calls for the provincial government to fund abortions outside of the province’s hospitals.

In a statement released on Monday, Dr. Chris Goodyear, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS), said the organization backs “the efforts of the obstetrics and gynecology staff” at Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, who have called for the province to fund abortions.

Dr. Chris Goodyear of the New Brunswick Medical Society is seen on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019.
Dr. Chris Goodyear of the New Brunswick Medical Society is seen on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Silas Brown/Global News

During the recent New Brunswick election, a letter signed by Dr. Christa Mullaly, the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Chalmers Regional Hospital, was distributed to the province’s health minister.

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The letter called for support and funding of Clinic 554 in Fredericton, New Brunswick’s only facility offering abortions outside of hospitals.

Click to play video 'Abortion clinic considers class-action lawsuit against provincial government' Abortion clinic considers class-action lawsuit against provincial government
Abortion clinic considers class-action lawsuit against provincial government – Aug 11, 2020

Read more: Letter sent to N.B. health minister calls for support of Clinic 554

The letter, a copy of which was provided to Global News by the Reproductive Justice N.B. (RJNB), also said that surgical abortion in New Brunswick is only truly accessible to the wealthy.

“Women of low socioeconomic status are often unable to access services and simply remain pregnant, at a high psycho-social and material cost to themselves and society,” the letter states.

In New Brunswick, abortions are only offered in the two locations because previous provincial governments have not repealed a regulation, known as Regulation 84-20, banning the funding of abortions outside of hospitals.

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New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that does not fund abortions outside of hospitals.

Click to play video 'Advocates call for access to abortion and LGBTQ healthcare in Rothesay, N.B.' Advocates call for access to abortion and LGBTQ healthcare in Rothesay, N.B.
Advocates call for access to abortion and LGBTQ healthcare in Rothesay, N.B – Aug 27, 2020

In the statement issued on Monday, Goodyear called surgical abortions a “necessary service.”

He said the decision by the provincial government to not fund the procedure outside of hospitals “forces many women to pay out of pocket for the service or travel long distances to receive care.”

“Physicians, patients, and Horizon Health Network have all acknowledged the need to make this service more accessible to patients,” said Goodyear.

“Clinic 554 provides a safe environment for abortions and reproductive care, it is a health resource for LGBTQ patients across New Brunswick, and it serves as a family practice for thousands of patients. It is a valuable part of our health system and must be maintained.”

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Blaine Higgs and the PC party won a majority in this past month’s election.

Read more: PC Leader Blaine Higgs offers shifting answers on abortion funding in New Brunswick

On the campaign trail, Higgs said he would not change the province’s stance and insisted that it complies with the Canada Health Act.

But the federal government disagrees. Ottawa had reduced the Canada Health Transfer to New Brunswick by $140,216, as a result of patient charges for abortion services provided outside of hospitals in 2017.

Funding was only temporarily restored as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressure it placed on the health-care system.

Higgs has said that if the federal government “or anyone else for that matter” thought the province was not complying with the Canada Health Act then they should challenge them in court.

“If there is an accessibility problem (around abortion), we would expect that that would be brought forward by our health authorities and they would they would recommend a solution to address that,” said Higgs at a press conference in Fredericton on Sept. 4, 2020.

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Blaine Higgs met by protesters calling for abortion access in New Brunswick – Aug 22, 2020

Higgs made those comments despite Horizon Health Network, the English language health authority in the province, passing a motion in support of Clinic 554 in Oct. 2019.

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The motion said the board would “advocate to the government of New Brunswick for payment to physicians to provide abortion services in a quality and safe environment outside of hospitals.”

The provincial government never acted on that motion.

The NBMS’s definitive endorsement of funding Clinic 554 may once again turn up the heat on Higgs and the PC government.

The premier has yet to return a request for comment.