09/20/2014 05:45 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:03 EDT

Abortion-rights activists push for change in New Brunswick ahead of election

MONTREAL - Abortion-rights activists in Montreal denounced the lack of access to abortion in New Brunswick ahead of Monday's election in the Maritime province.

The protesters, several of whom originally hailed from out east, said Saturday access has become an even bigger problem following July's closure of Fredericton's Morgentaler Clinic, and they'll be pressing the next government to make changes.

Janelle LeBlanc, who grew up in Shediac, N.B., said she wanted to send a message home.

"We want those pushing for greater access over there to know we're in solidarity with them," she said.

Protests were also planned in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, and Charlottetown as well several locations in New Brunswick.

The Morgentaler Clinic cited losses of about $100,000 over the last decade in its decision to shut down after 20 years, saying it couldn't afford to continue providing abortions that are not publicly funded.

With the private clinic closed, a woman in the province must get two doctors to say in writing that it's medically necessary before having the procedure carried out in one of two approved hospitals.

The ruling Progressive Conservatives under Premier David Alward have said they would leave things unchanged, while the NDP and the Green party have said they would remove the restrictions.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant has promised to review the Medical Services Payment Act and remove perceived barriers to abortion, a position criticized by abortion-rights advocates who say there's no need for more studies.

Activists also called for improved access in rural areas, across Canada's north and on Prince Edward Island.

"It's reprehensible that in PEI abortion access is null and that in New Brunswick is disappearing," said Jessi MacEachern, a Montreal protester originally from the Island.

"I would love to hear the government of New Brunswick say that they are going to stand behind women and supporters of reproductive justice."

Activists in Montreal used an unusual approach to get their point across, holding what organizers described as a "uterus pageant." It featured women dressed up as uteruses, answering "questions about their hopes for a more just world where they might feel healthy and at home."

Julie Michaud, a protest organizer, said she thought it would be a "fun way to get people to talk about some of the various concerns that people with uteruses have about their health, and the choices they can make, and having the access to make those choice."

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