Ten reasons why the closure of Morgentaler Clinic matters

| April 11, 2014
Photo: flickr/postbear eater of worlds

The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick has announced it will close its doors in July, striking a huge blow to reproductive choice in Canada.

The clinic opened in June 1994 with the mandate to provide access to safe abortion care and "that no woman would be turned away regardless of [their] ability to pay." Since its opening, the clinic has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women.

The closure is due to a lack of funding because New Brunswick governments have continued to uphold the anti-choice agenda of former Premier Frank McKenna and block access to abortion. The main obstacle is Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1), which decides which abortions will be covered by medicare.

Since the clinic does not comply with Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1) mandates (1. performed in a hospital by specialist in obstetrics or gynecology and 2. Two doctors have certified it medically necessary), the clinic does not receive government funding and has been unable to generate revenue exceeding its expenses and will close.

This closure matters. Here's why:

1. The Morgentaler Clinic is the only stand alone abortion clinic in New Brunswick. It is the only option for people to have access to safe, accessible abortions. And, as Anne Thériault states, "It is the only place where [people] can exercise their rights to bodily autonomy and reproductive choice."

2. Once the clinic closes, the only option to access abortion in New Brunswick will be two hospitals where the person will need to get approval from two doctors who deem the procedure "medically necessary" thanks to Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1). This directly impedes reproductive choice if people do not have a family doctor, a pro-choice doctor who will make the referral and the time to make two separate doctors' visits.

3. The New Brunswick government created Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1) and it has always been the main obstacle for reproductive choice in New Brunswick. Since its guidelines deem what is covered by medicare, the Morgentaler Clinic was not funded by medicare. As a result, the clinic subsidized abortions for people unable to pay and as a result, revenues have never met expenses.

4. Deciding whether an abortion is "medically necessary" is not only absurd and in conflict with reproductive rights, but it is subjective. According to the Canada Health Act "medically necessary is that which is physician performed" and other than that, the federal government and courts have never defined "medically necessary." Therefore, the provinces get to decide what is "medically necessary" and since New Brunswick doesn't seem to be a haven for pro-choice politics, we can bet the definition will linger around "only when a life is in danger."

5. As Libby Davis and Niki Ashton said in their open letter, "The Canadian government must work with the provinces to ensure universal access to abortion services for women. Facilities like the non-profit Morgentaler clinic in New Brunswick play an important role in improving access to services for women seeking abortion."

6. "The amount of financial assistance provided by the Clinic speaks eloquently to the impact Regulation 84-20 has on women living on assistance, single family mothers in minimum wage jobs, students with no income and women living in abusive relationships." Uh, yeah.

7. Closing this clinic doesn't make abortions stop. And it also doesn't force people to comply to an arbitrary system. What it does do is to force people into unsafe abortion procedures and put their lives at risk or continue with an unwanted pregnancy. Why? Because limiting access limits choice.

8. Stephen Woodworth keeps rambling on about "equal worth" and "human dignity" when really what he means is "fetuses trump rights." He also took to twitter. Supporting the closure of this clinic and supporting a lack of reproductive choice in general, means that you do not value human life. You are putting lives (and choice!) at risk. Your "moral" objections don't trump rights and safety.

9. Canada's highest court determined that people have the right to decide when and if to bear children, and that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is between a patient and their doctor. Denying access to abortion by defunding this clinic, which is in an area already hard-pressed for health options, affects inherent rights. Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1) needs to be repealed.

10. I don't know about you, but I'm kind of getting sick of defending reproductive choice. This is seriously just bullshit. Here are three things you can do now:

- Sign the Change.Org petition calling on the government to fund services at the Morgentaler Clinic

- Tweet a message of support using the #NBProChoice hashtag

- Write a letter to your Member of Parliament (find out their contact info here). You can use this sample letter drafted by a local activist and former clinic volunteer, but if you can, it’s best to rephrase  in your own words so your MP knows you care personally about this issue enough to take the time to write.

Kaitlin McNabb is rabble's books and news coordinator and she tweets at @kaitlinmcnabb.

Photo: flickr/postbear eater of worlds

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