02/25/2015 01:30 EST | Updated 04/27/2015 05:59 EDT

New Brunswick will leave it to health boards to ensure abortions are available

FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government will leave it to its two health authorities to ensure abortion services are available, the province's attorney general said Wednesday.

Serge Rousselle was asked whether he believes the level of abortion access meets the province's legal obligations after the Horizon Health Network announced it will offer the procedure at one hospital in Moncton.

That means as of April, publicly funded abortions will be provided at three hospitals in two cities — something that abortion rights advocates say falls short of the government's commitment to improve access.

Rousselle said the government has removed barriers to abortion by eliminating a rule that required women to have two doctors declare the procedure was medically necessary.

"Now it's the health authorities that have to make sure that this important medical service is delivered in this province," he said.

"It is a question of accessibility. They have to make sure that this service is available in the province."

Reproductive Justice New Brunswick has said the fact that New Brunswick will restrict its expansion in abortions to just one more hospital means barriers remain in place for women seeking the procedure.

A spokeswoman for John McGarry, the CEO of Horizon Health Network, said he will not be granting interviews on the issue. Premier Brian Gallant and Health Minister Victor Boudreau have not been available for interviews since the Horizon Health Network announcement Tuesday.

The province's other health board — Vitalite Health Network — offers publicly funded abortions at two hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst but does not plan to expand it beyond that.

Abortion access has been a controversial issue in New Brunswick since the 1980s, when the provincial government at the time introduced a regulation that stipulated that women could only receive abortions at two hospitals after getting referrals from two doctors who deemed the procedure medically necessary.

The controversy heightened last summer when the Morgentaler Clinic, the only private facility in the province offering abortions, closed citing a lack of funds. Some women left New Brunswick to seek abortions in the United States or other provinces.