Blaine Higgs says funding Clinic 554 would be ‘slippery slope’

Click to play video: 'N.B. legislature commissioner removes tents from protesters'
N.B. legislature commissioner removes tents from protesters
WATCH: In a Friday night protest and vigil for abortion rights in New Brunswick, two tents set up by protestors were removed by a legislature commissioner who, a law professor says, wasn't able to provide his legal authority to do so. Tim Roszell has the story – Sep 26, 2020

Despite a public protest and multiple calls from medical organizations Premier Blaine Higgs said on Monday that he will not change the New Brunswick government’s stance on funding Clinic 554, the only location in the province that offers surgical abortions outside of hospitals.

In New Brunswick, abortions are only offered in three locations; two hospitals in Moncton and one hospital in Bathurst, locations that critics say limit accessibility for those who need the procedure.

Previous provincial governments have not repealed a regulation, known as Regulation 84-20, banning the funding of abortions outside of hospitals.

Fredericton’s Clinic 554, which serves as a family practice and a resource for LGBTQ2 patients across the province, is set to close at the end of the month as a result of the lack of funding.

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It’ll be a decision that adds 3,000 patients to the list of those looking for a family doctor, the clinic’s owner Dr. Adrian Edgar told Global News last week.

There are currently more than 35,000 patients across the province waiting for a doctor, according to the province’s Patient Connect NB service.

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The New Brunswick PC Leader said during the election campaign that if re-elected his government had no plan to repeal the regulation.

Click to play video: 'Students rally for change in N.B. abortion funding policy amid Clinic 554 closure'
Students rally for change in N.B. abortion funding policy amid Clinic 554 closure

Despite recent statements from the New Brunswick Medical Society in support of Clinic 554 and a protest on the legislature’s lawn Higgs reaffirmed his decision on Monday.

“So if we are going to suggest here in this situation that it’s more cost effective to offer services in a private clinic, then where does that stop? Does that mean that we should continue to offer more and more services in a private clinic? And less and less services in public situations? ” Higgs asked.

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“Because that not what we value as a society, we value the Canada Health Act which says we provide public health care in public facilities. So it is a slippery slope and if you do it for one service, where does it stop?”

Higgs failed to mention the criticism his government has received from the federal government on the Canada Health Act.

Ottawa had actually 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 anyone who believes the province is violating the Canada Health Act can challenge the government’s decision in court.

On Monday, Higgs suggested offering surgical abortions at more hospitals as an alternative to funding Clinic 554.

Over the weekend two tents and some other items belonging to protesters who were there to voice support for Clinic 554 were taken by security officials.

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Higgs said on Monday that security had concerns over the tents.

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