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N.B. health workers launch abortion care network on Morgentaler anniversary

Click to play video: 'Global News at 6 New Brunswick: Jan. 25'
Global News at 6 New Brunswick: Jan. 25
Global News at 6 New Brunswick from Jan. 25, 2023 – Jan 25, 2023

Health-care providers in New Brunswick are launching a new abortion services network ahead of Saturday’s 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler decision.

The New Brunswick Abortion Care Network’s 20 founding members _ who are in nursing, pharmacy, family medicine and obstetrics _ aim to increase access to and awareness of provincial abortion care, said Martha Paynter, a nursing professor and spokesperson for the new group.

“The most important thing is for the public to understand that abortion is normal, safe and common,” said Paynter, who teaches at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

Despite provincial restrictions that only fund surgical abortions at three hospitals, safe and accessible medication abortions are widely available across the province, she said.

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The network is being launched 35 years after the Jan. 28, 1988, Supreme Court of Canada ruling that upheld an acquittal of abortion advocate Henry Morgentaler and struck down the law that criminalized abortion.

In 2017, New Brunswick became the first province to publicly fund medication abortions, in which a pregnancy is ended by taking two pills.

Martha Paynter, the spokesperson for the New Brunswick Abortion Care Network, says that the network’s 20 founding members in nursing, pharmacy, family medicine and obstetrics aim to increase access to and awareness of provincial abortion care. Paynter, is seen at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

New Brunswickers can access abortions through primary care services, or they can self-refer to the province’s three family planning centres.

The province is home to Clinic 554 in Fredericton — the former Morgentaler clinic — which offers abortions, but at an out-of-pocket cost of up to $850.

Paynter said the new network’s two major goals are to ensure that residents are aware of the options available and to promote abortion-care training among health professionals across New Brunswick.

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“It’s wonderful that any family doctor or nurse practitioner could in theory prescribe (a medication abortion), but finding those providers who are confident and competent to do so can be a challenge for patients,” she said.

As well, Paynter said the group would like to help broaden the conversation around abortion to include other barriers to care.

These include the lack of rural public transit to get people to medical appointments, and the long wait times before new New Brunswickers can secure provincial health cards.

“Let’s make this conversation a lot bigger,” she said.

“We want to change the conversation to something that is positive, inclusive and that results in expedited access to quality abortion care.”

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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