New Brunswick's promised expansion of abortion services will be limited to a single new hospital – a hospital that is located in one of only two cities in the province that already offer publicly funded abortions.
The province's English-language hospital network confirmed Tuesday that it will begin terminating pregnancies in April at The Moncton Hospital, one of the organization's 12 hospitals across the province.
The news only came to light after a local media co-operative obtained an e-mail that John McGarry, the chief executive officer of Horizon Health Network, sent to a group of doctors on Jan. 21 explaining that providing "family planning services" at a single site made the most sense financially.
Until now, Horizon had refused to say where it planned to offer abortions, citing security and privacy concerns.
Horizon's decision is the latest bend in the road for women seeking to end their pregnancies in New Brunswick, which until recently had the highest barriers in the country to publicly funded abortions.
In November, freshly elected Liberal Premier Brian Gallant announced he would lower those barriers, saying women would no longer need two doctors to deem their pregnancies "medically necessary" before medicare would cover the cost of the procedure.
The move was prompted in part by the closing last summer of the Fredericton Morgentaler clinic, which prompted a national debate about abortion access in the Maritimes and outside major cities across Canada.
However, Mr. Gallant left intact a rule that restricted public funding to abortions performed in hospitals, something pro-choice advocates warned at the time might hinder access to the procedure.
"Before today, we knew there were and are only publicly funded [abortion] services in Moncton and Bathurst," said Jessi Taylor, a spokeswoman for Reproductive Justice NB, one of the groups that urged New Brunswick to drop its restrictions on publicly funded abortions.
"Now, RGNB has long said that providing services in only Bathurst and Moncton is a huge barrier to patients around New Brunswick. So doubling up services is inefficient and irresponsible."
In the Jan. 21 e-mail obtained by the website NB Media Co-op, Mr. McGarry wrote that his organization needed to balance "access with cost" in deciding where to offer abortions. He warned the capital costs for each site "could be in excess of $800,000" and wrote that, "We cannot afford that capital cost."
Mr. McGarry declined an interview request Tuesday. He confirmed in an e-mailed statement that The Moncton Hospital would, in fact, be the new site offering abortions beginning in April.
Ms. Taylor said the province could go a long way toward improving abortion access by paying for the service in clinics like the one that opened recently in the former Morgentaler building in Fredericton after a crowdfunding campaign raised more than $125,000.
New Brunswick is far from the only Canadian province where abortions providers are scarce outside of big urban centres.
Elsewhere in the Maritimes, Nova Scotia offers abortions at just one Halifax hospital and Prince Edward Island has no abortion providers at all.