NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to act immediately to withhold cash transfers to New Brunswick until the province provides funding for out-of-hospital abortion services.
New Brunswick is clearly violating the Canada Health Act, and it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to step in, Mr. Singh said in a letter to Mr. Trudeau Monday.
The federal legislation for publicly funded health-care contains criteria and conditions that provinces and territories must fulfill to receive the full federal contribution under the Canada Health Transfer.
“Canadians expect the federal government to not just talk about being pro-choice but to stand up for abortion access when it is under threat,” Mr. Singh wrote.
“It is your responsibility and Canadians are counting on you.”
Mr. Singh’s letter comes as a facility in Fredericton, known as Clinic 554, risks being shuttered.
On Oct. 10, the clinic’s medical director, Adrian Edgar, issued a statement to announce its “impending closure" and stressed that the issue was not just of concern to the province but the country.
“We expect and demand that the next federal government take swift, decisive action on October 22nd [the day after the federal election] to hold New Brunswick accountable under the Canada Health Act by immediately withholding health transfers to the province until they fund abortion care outside of hospitals properly,” Dr. Edgar said.
The clinic’s fate was also raised during a meeting Friday between the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, who now heads a parliamentary caucus of three MPs, and Mr. Trudeau.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said a Liberal government “will always defend a woman’s right to choose.
“As the Prime Minister has said, we will ensure that the New Brunswick government allows paid-for access to clinics that offer abortion services outside of hospitals,” said press secretary Matt Pascuzzo.
Mr. Pascuzzo did not specify how the government will insist the province ensures those services will be provided outside of hospitals.
During the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau said at a stop in Fredericton that, if re-elected, he would sit down with Premier Blaine Higgs and let him known that “we will use all tools at our disposal, including tools that exist under the Canada Health Act.”
In July, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, a New Brunswick MP, also sent a letter to premiers asking them to remove all barriers to abortion access. At the time, a spokesperson for New Brunswick’s Health Department said in a statement that there was no intention to change the status quo.
Mr. Singh also said in his letter that Mr. Trudeau should investigate direct funding for Clinic 554 in the interim.
“In addition to being the only abortion provider in Fredericton, Clinic 554 provides numerous other essential community health services to 3,000 patients, all of which will be without primary care if the closure proceeds," he wrote.
Significant and harmful barriers remain across the country for many women seeking abortions, Mr. Singh said, noting that abortion is a legal health service in Canada.
Dr. Edgar also said in his October statement that federal leaders focused on the abortion debate during the election campaign rather than the “real crisis” of access.
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