Higgs government votes down abortion access motion

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The New Brunswick Legislature voted against a motion to eliminate Regulation 84-20 and allow funding for surgical abortions outside of hospital settings on Thursday, December 17. 

The Liberal motion was voted down 27-20. (Legislative Assembly Livestream/GNB.ca)

Original motion changed 

Regulation 84-20, which is part of the Medical Services Payment Act, does not allow Medicare to cover procedures outside of a hospital, including the recently-closed Clinic 554 in Fredericton. 

“I hope that the women here who have gone into politics did it to advance the cause of women. Otherwise, what are we doing here?”, said Isabelle Thériault, MLA for Caraquet, who tabled the motion. 

Jill Green, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure from the Fredericton-North riding, argued that “the issue at stake is about access to abortion, not Clinic 554” and questioned the fact that there are two hospitals in Moncton that offered abortions, but it was not offered at the Fredericton’s hospital. 

According to her, the Liberal motion was about protecting an individual business “trying to influence decisions related to public health”. 

Green promised to fight for the people that use the clinic during her campaigns but mentioned nothing about securing funding for it. 

Final decision 

Dorothy Shephard is currently the province’s Minister of Health. (Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick/Website)

The debate in the Legislature about the motion ended with the removal of references about Clinic 554 and Regulation 84-20, instead changing it to require the province’s two regional health authorities to determine whether current abortion services offered in the province follow the requirements of the Canada Health Act. 

Though the Liberals tried to restore the motion to its original intent, it was voted down 27-20. 

According to Minister Dorothy Shephard, if the authorities “feel like the access does not meet the requirements of the Canada Health Act, they must determine how to meet that requirement while keeping within the principles of the Medical Services Payments Act”. 

Clinic 554 

Clinic 554 was run by Dr. Adrian Edgar. (Telegraph-Journal/Website)

The clinic, aside from offering abortions, provided many services to LGBTQ+ people, patients with HIV, people with mental health issues, and survivors of sexual assault, among others. 

The other services are covered by Medicare. 

Dr. Adrian Edgar, who ran the clinic, said in September that he could no longer shift funds from other Medicare services to help people who could not afford abortions anymore. 

In October of last year, Clinic 554 was put up for sale.   

More information can be found here