02/03/2015 02:27 EST | Updated 04/05/2015 05:59 EDT

New Brunswick Abortion Decision To Keep Locations Secret Attracts Criticism

FREDERICTON - A decision by New Brunswick's largest health authority to keep secret where it will perform abortions is drawing pointed criticism from an abortions rights group.

Jessi Taylor, spokeswoman for Reproductive Justice New Brunswick, said Tuesday the decision by Horizon Health Network runs counter to changes made by the province to increase access to the procedure.

Taylor said it means women will be effectively blocked from getting needed information and any assumption that they can get it through family physicians is a problem.

"In a province where something like 70 per cent of us are without a family doctor, there's no guarantee that New Brunswickers will have access to the people who will need to know," said Taylor.

John McGarry, the CEO of the Horizon Health Network, reportedly told a board meeting last week that although the health board was preparing to provide abortion services in April, he won't say where they will be offered.

Some fear the information will not be publicly available based on the comments attributed to McGarry.

"We hope to be providing this service in April. I'm not going to say where that is. The people who need to know will know where the service will be," McGarry is quoted as saying at the board meeting in an email from the health authority.

"My job is to make sure the service is working and operational and that we are looking after patients."

But Taylor said she believes the health authority's move is a case where officials trying to appear to help are actually hindering access.

She also doesn't buy arguments that the decision to withhold the information is in the interests of safety.

"If (McGarry) is actually concerned about protesters and safety, Horizon should be fighting for better zoning laws with respect to protesting and interfering with medical services," said Taylor.

As for the province, Taylor said it's the role of the Health Department to increase access to better health care and one of the easiest and most cost effective methods is to tell people where services are located.

Under changes that took effect Jan. 1, women no longer need the approval of two doctors before having an abortion.

Premier Brian Gallant has said he wants to ease access to abortions, but he has also asked for patience, saying it would take time before hospitals are ready to provide them.

Currently, only francophone health authority hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst offer abortions.

A spokeswoman for the health authority said McGarry was unavailable for comment Tuesday, adding it has nothing new to say about its position.

The Health Department did not return a request for comment.

— By Keith Doucette in Halifax.


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