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36 Canadian senators call for New Brunswick to ensure access to abortion

Click to play video 'N.B. health minister says she would move ‘Heaven and Earth’ to get women the help they need on abortion' N.B. health minister says she would move ‘Heaven and Earth’ to get women the help they need on abortion
When asked about abortion on Tuesday, New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told reporters "I don't know that I could ever have an abortion," but she would “move Heaven and Earth to get any woman the help that she felt she needed.” – Sep 29, 2020

On Tuesday, 36 senators from across Canada signed a call for access to reproductive rights in New Brunswick after Premier Blaine Higgs said funding Clinic 554 would be a “slippery slope.”

Fredericton’s Clinic 554, which serves as an abortion clinic, 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.

“The closing of Clinic 554 would impair access to hard-won, Charter-protected rights,” the senators said.

The Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 removed legal limits on access to abortion.

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
Students rally for change in N.B. abortion funding policy amid Clinic 554 closure – Sep 25, 2020

In New Brunswick, abortions are only offered in three locations; two hospitals in Moncton and one hospital in Bathurst, as previous N.B. governments have not repealed a regulation banning the funding of abortions outside of hospitals.

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“Access to the reproductive rights conferred to women years ago by the highest court in the land are still being restricted by provincial regulations and policies,” the senators’ statement said.

Higgs has also received criticism 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.

On Monday, Higgs maintained that he will not be funding Clinic 554, or changing abortion-related regulation. He said funding services in a private clinic is “not what we value as a society. … So it is a slippery slope and if you do it for one service, where does it stop?”

Read more: Security removes tents from protesters during vigil for Clinic 554 at N.B. legislature

Clinic 554 is not a unique case in New Brunswick, the senators said. In fact, they said it is a part of repeated measures “to restrict women’s access to services,” taken by N.B. governments.

“The substance and intent of Supreme Court decisions must be respected and applied,” the statement said.

“Personal opinions on a court decision matter not,” they said. “Rights without the means to enforce them are meaningless.”

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