Civil rights group sues New Brunswick over access to abortion

Click to play video: 'Experts say N.B. PC majority government continuing to defy the Canada Health Act'
Experts say N.B. PC majority government continuing to defy the Canada Health Act
New Brunswick’s PC majority government has sanded down the edges of an opposition motion seeking to expand abortion access in the provinces-experts say continuing to defy the Canada Health Act. Travis Fortnum reports – Dec 18, 2020

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit against the province of New Brunswick contesting restricted abortion access in the province.

The organization had announced its intent to file the lawsuit in the fall, with the CCLA having to sit out a two-month waiting period before it could actually serve the province.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, equality program director with the CCLA, says that the wait ended Wednesday when the lawsuit was filed using a dropbox system put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Civil liberties group launches legal action against N.B. for greater abortion access

During a Thursday morning teleconference, Mendelsohn Aviv said the court acknowledged receipt of the paperwork and that the organization expects a stamped copy.

“After refusing to waive the two month’s notice period to file our statement of claim, the government will not be able to avoid facing justice any longer,” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Clinic 554 shuts down after months of advocacy efforts for abortion rights'
Clinic 554 shuts down after months of advocacy efforts for abortion rights

Currently, New Brunswick offers publicly funded abortions at three hospitals.

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Two of those are in Moncton, the third in Bathurst.

A provincial regulation, 84-20, as a whole doesn’t specifically limit surgical abortion to those facilities, but a provision to the regulation blocks public funding to the procedure — as well as some non-essential plastic surgeries — outside of them.

READ MORE: New Brunswick PC majority removes thrust of opposition’s abortion motion, reference to Clinic 554

Mendelsohn Aviv says she hopes the province will amend that provision to eliminate the restrictions rather than fight them in court.

“Just because we’ve launched this lawsuit does not mean this is the way it should be resolved,” she said.

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She went on to say she hopes the province will have a “change of heart,” though that seems unlikely.

“Unfortunately, the government of New Brunswick has been fighting against the equality and reproductive freedom of women, girls and trans people for decades,” Mendelsohn Aviv says.

Dr. Adrian Edgar, who has provided abortions at a private, Fredericton-based clinic, says that he’s saddened legal action has become necessary, but that the province’s Progressive Conservative government seems to have “hardened their stance” on keeping 84-20 in place since winning a majority in 2020’s snap election.

The province has not yet commented.

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