Liberal election promise would do nothing to improve N.B. abortion access: expert –

Posted: September 4, 2021 at 5:54 am

A piece of the Liberals campaign platform aimed directly at addressing the dispute over abortion access in New Brunswick is unlikely to have an impact on reproductive health care in the province, according to a constitutional lawyer.

Its a bit of a nothing burger as far as Im concerned, said Kerri Froc, an associate professor in the faculty of law at the University of New Brunswick.

The campaign plank in question marks the latest attempt by the federal Liberals to address abortion access in the province and promises to require that all Canadians can access reproductive health care no matter where they live. They pledge to enshrine that requirement in regulations under the Canada Health Act, meaning it would only need approval by cabinet. A provinces failure to live up to their obligations would result in an automatic penalty applied against federal health transfers.

But according to Froc, the promise amounts to the Liberals pledging to give the government power it already possesses and has already used.

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The federal government has said that New Brunswick is in violation of the Canada Health Act for failing to provide meaningful access to surgical abortions in the province and deducted $140,216 from its share of health transfers earlier this year. The province refuses to fund surgical abortions performed outside of hospital and there are only three hospitals in the province that provide the procedure: one in Bathurst and two in Moncton.

The province argues it is meeting the need, citing lessening demand for the procedure after the introduction of Mifegymiso, also known as the abortion pill, in 2017.

Froc says the Liberal province in some way harms the fight for better access by suggesting that access to abortion is not already explicit in the Canada Health Act.

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They seem to imply that theres a question now and theres really not, she said. Theres really no question under the Canada Health Act. It says that if you have medical service provided by a physician then those have to be reasonably accessible, so you cant put direct or indirect barriers in front of them.

Theres no problem with the Canada Health Act.

When asked about the promise on Wednesday Liberal leader Justin Trudeau didnt directly address why the regulation was needed.

I think its clear to the vast majority of Canadians that we need to be a country that stands unequivocally for womens rights, for a womans right to choose. And thats not a theoretical right, its also a very practical right that involves being able to access reproductive health services across the country wherever they are, he said.

According to JP Lewis, an associate professor of political science at UNB, the promise looks to be an attempt to speak directly to progressive voters in key New Brunswick ridings.

The three ridings that weve been watching, Fredericton, Miramichi and Saint JohnRothesay, the Liberals are going to need to take whatever they can get, Lewis said.

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The highlighting of any progressive plank of their platform is addressing that strategic concern.

This isnt the first time Trudeau has waded into the abortion debate in New Brunswick. In 2019, during a Fredericton campaign stop, he promised to ensure that the province funds out-of-hospital abortions.

The move takes on more significance in Fredericton, where Clinic 554, a family practice that also provided abortion services that werent covered by Medicare, has become a flashpoint for reproductive health-care issues in the province. The clinic has all but closed as a family practice, opening two days a week to provide some reproductive health-care services.

The province is also facing legal action from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that claims the province is violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by failing to provide adequate abortion access.

2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Liberal election promise would do nothing to improve N.B. abortion access: expert -

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