The Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick has announced that it will close its doors in July due to lack of funding.
The Morgentaler clinic is the only abortion clinic in New Brunswick. In fact, aside from the Athena clinic in Newfoundland, it is the only abortion clinic east of Montreal. It serves not only the population of New Brunswick, but also that of Prince Edward Island. Currently, abortions in those provinces are not covered by medicare -- in fact, Regulation 84-20 of New Brunswick's Medical Services Payment act includes the following under procedures which are "are deemed not to be entitled services":
(a.1) abortion, unless the abortion is performed by a specialist in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology in a hospital facility approved by the jurisdiction in which the hospital facility is located and two medical practitioners certify in writing that the abortion was medically required
So just to clarify, women in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island cannot access safe, legal abortions unless two doctors declare in writing that the abortion is medically necessary.
Women cannot choose to terminate a pregnancy unless two doctors agree that it is medically necessary.
It doesn't matter how many times I type those words -- I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around them. Medically necessary. Medically necessary. Jesus Christ, what decade are we living in?
Scratch that, what century are we living in?
The Morgentaler clinic is the only facility in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island where women can access safe, legal abortions without having to demonstrate medical need. It is the only place where women can exercise their rights to bodily autonomy and reproductive choice. It is unbelievably necessary to the population that it serves -- since it first opened in 1994, 10,000 abortions have been performed there. There is a demonstrably urgent need for the Morgentaler clinic in New Brunswick.
And yet, even within the Morgentaler clinic, there are still barriers for women who require access to abortions. Because provincial healthcare does not cover abortions, women need to pay between $700 and $850 (depending on how many weeks along they are) in order to terminate their pregnancy. This means that the most vulnerable, economically disadvantaged women -- arguably the women who would benefit the most from access to safe, legal abortion -- are often unable to pay for the procedure. And that is incredibly fucked up.
Think about what it would mean to your family to suddenly have to shell out $850 on just a few weeks' notice. Think of what it would mean for you to have to get that money together in a short amount of time, or else face the burden of an unexpected, unwanted pregnancy. I live a pretty comfortable middle class existence, and even I would struggle to come up with that kind of money on short notice. And I know that I'm luckier than most -- I have a steady income, I have a partner with a steady income, and we have a stable home life. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a single woman working at a minimum wage job, barely scraping enough together for rent and bills each month, to discover that she has to scrape together $850 or else face raising a child that she does not want and cannot afford on her own.
I also want you to think about what will happen in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island once the Morgentaler clinic is gone. Do you honestly believe that women just won't have abortions? Are you seriously buying into some kind of anti-choice fantasy where a woman gets to the halfway mark in her pregnancy and suddenly falls in love with the idea of being a mother and then her boyfriend shows up on their doorstep and asks her to get married and it's all roses and white picket fences from there on? For fucking real?
If that's the case, let me tell you what's actually going to happen -- women are going to die. Women are going to die because they will be forced to turn to unlicensed abortion providers who might prey on their vulnerability by charging extortionate rates for unsafe procedures. Women are going to die because they will attempt to terminate their own pregnancies at home, by themselves, with little or no knowledge of what they're doing. Women will die because their pregnancies will force them to stay in abusive relationships that they might otherwise have been able to leave. If you think that closing an abortion clinic will somehow equal more happy endings or at the very least more babies, then think again -- worldwide statistics and history both show that the real outcome of this situation will be the loss of women's lives.
This cannot happen. We cannot, in good conscience, let this happen. We need to do everything that we can to allow women to exercise reproductive freedom. We need to stand up for the right of women in New Brunswick -- and all across Canada -- to have access to safe, legal abortion.
Our voices, united, can affect change. There are so many things that you can do to help create a better future for women in this country; here are just a few:
1. Reach out New Brunswick's NDP party -- they are actively working to end the two doctor requirement for abortions, and will happily provide you with the contact information for members of the legislative assembly so that you can write to your local representative. Call 1-844-NDP-NPD1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Put pressure on your MLA to have the law changed by writing to them, calling them, and emailing them
3. Tweet about this using the hashtag #NBProchoice
4. Share this story on social media -- chances are that many Canadians are not aware of how limited access to abortion is in New Brunswick
I want to leave you now with one of my favourite quotes from Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who was a feminist hero, agitator for women's reproductive rights and founder of the Morgentaler abortion clinics. D. Morgentaler was a Holocaust survivor, and his experience at Auschwitz left him with an enormous desire to make the world a better place. While receiving an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Western Ontario, he said:
"By fighting for reproductive freedom, and making it possible, I have made a contribution to a safer and more caring society where people have a greater opportunity to realize their full potential."
It's up to us to continue his fight for that safer, more caring society.
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