01/16/2015 12:06 EST | Updated 03/18/2015 05:59 EDT

New Fredericton clinic to offer reproductive services including abortion

FREDERICTON - Reproductive New Brunswick says a new clinic set to open in Fredericton that will offer abortions is a major step forward for access to reproductive services in the province.

Spokeswoman Jessi Taylor says Clinic 554 will open at the site of the former Morgentaler Clinic in the coming weeks after a fundraising campaign raised more than $125,000 to help it begin operations. The Morgentaler Clinic was the only private facility in the province offering abortions before it closed in July because of a lack of funds.

New Brunswick women who had to travel outside of the province to Montreal and Maine to get abortions will now have more access to care at home, Taylor said in an interview Friday.

"The idea that New Brunswickers had to cross borders in order to access health care was absolutely disgusting," she said. "It is a major step forward in many ways, but only because last July we took such an incredible step backwards."

Taylor says her organization has been told by the provincial government that abortion services offered at the new clinic will not be covered by Medicare, which could be a challenge for the clinic in the long term.

"It would definitely be a lot more sure and stable if we had the guarantee of Medicare support."

The clinic will also offer services for the province's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, as well as people with HIV, sexually transmitted infections and Hepatitis C.

Under changes made by the Liberal government that took effect Jan. 1, women no longer have to get the approval of two doctors before having an abortion.

Premier Brian Gallant has said the move is aimed at opening access to the procedure for women but he recently appealed for patience because it will take some time before hospitals in the province are ready to perform abortions.

The controversy over access to abortions heightened in the province when the Morgentaler clinic closed. It was doing more than 600 abortions a year, while the Health Department has said about 400 were being done at two hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst.

The hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst that provide abortions are part of the francophone health authority known as Vitalite.

Gallant has said both hospitals are bilingual and it is not unusual that certain procedures are only available at some hospitals.

The Horizon Health Network is developing plans to provide access to abortions and hopes to offer the service in April.

But Taylor said the government should be funding private reproductive clinics.

"(Clinic 554) is only a Band-Aid solution," she said. "What really needs to happen is the government needs to provide support for services that are preformed in clinic settings.

"It's really nice to be where the rest of Canada was in the '80s, but it's far from sufficient."