FREDERICTON - A decision by New Brunswick's largest health authority to only provide abortions in Moncton drew criticism Tuesday from an abortion rights group as a barrier to the procedure.
Jessi Taylor, a spokeswoman for Reproductive Justice New Brunswick, said publicly funded abortions were previously only provided in Moncton and Bathurst by the Vitalite Health Network, so it would have made sense for the Horizon Health Network to look at other locations in the province.
"Providing services in only those two locations was always a huge barrier," Taylor said in an interview.
The decision means some women will have to travel up to 3 1/2 hours to get an abortion in a hospital, Taylor added.
"We're such a rural and huge province, so centralizing services in Moncton is a waste of resources," she said.
Originally, the Horizon Health Network said it would provide abortion services, but it would keep secret where they would be provided.
But Horizon CEO John McGarry confirmed the location in an email Tuesday.
"I can confirm that The Moncton Hospital has been selected as the site where Horizon will provide family planning services beginning in April," he wrote.
McGarry did not reply to a request for an interview or provide further details.
Health Minister Victor Boudreau was not available for an interview and a spokeswoman referred questions on how the procedure will be offered to the health authority.
"The regional health authorities have been charged with increasing their capacity to provide this service in a timely and non-judgmental fashion. The regional health authorities are best suited to answer questions on service delivery within their health networks," Sarah Bustard wrote in a statement.
Under changes that took effect Jan. 1, women no longer need the approval of two doctors before getting an abortion in hospital, paid for by medicare. Premier Brian Gallant said the move was part of the effort to improve access to abortions.
A private clinic in Fredericton that opened on the site of the former Morgentaler clinic charges about $700 for the procedure, but the government refuses to pay for abortions in clinics.
The controversy over access to abortions heightened in New Brunswick last summer when the Morgentaler clinic closed. It was doing more than 600 abortions a year, while the Health Department said about 400 were being done at the two hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst.