Canadians who support women’s reproductive choice are cheering after an online crowdfunding campaign successfully raised $100,000, to prevent the Morgentaler Clinic in New Brunswick from shutting down. In fact, there is little to celebrate. The clinic, which performs more than half of all abortions in the province, may be saved, but the restrictive regulations limiting access to abortion in the province remain firmly in place.
Access to abortion in New Brunswick is governed by Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act, created by the Frank McKenna government in 1989. The regulation states that medicare will only cover the cost of an abortion if a woman first jumps through a number of procedural hoops: She must obtain written approval from two doctors, certifying that an abortion is “medically necessary.” The abortion may only be performed by a specialist, and only at one of two authorized hospitals.
For many women these obstacles are difficult to overcome. Some face problems finding a supportive family doctor – much less two – for a time-sensitive procedure. It’s a throwback to the “therapeutic abortion committees” of the past, when access to abortion was still limited by the Criminal Code. Until the Supreme Court struck down that provision in 1988, hospital committees decided who was, and who was not, entitled to an abortion.
The Morgentaler Clinic in New Brunswick offers abortion to any woman who needs one, regardless of ability to pay. For years, Henry Morgentaler bridged the clinic’s financial shortfall. After his death, the clinic could no longer afford its lease, which is why the crowdfunding campaign was launched. But neither Dr. Morgentaler nor the charity of strangers should have to cover the cost of an abortion in this country. Medicare should. A lawsuit Dr. Morgentaler launched 12 years ago against the New Brunswick government to fight Regulation 84-20 was dropped after he died. The reason? A lack of funds. Perhaps that’s another thing worth crowdfunding.