Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton is calling on the provincial government to scrap a regulation that is costing New Brunswickers about $140,000 in out of pocket health care costs.
Regulation 84-20 prohibits the coverage of surgical abortions in clinics outside of hospitals in New Brunswick, which means that people have had to pay out of pocket to get access to the procedure when it’s needed outside of the three hospitals that offer it, two in Moncton and one in Bathurst.
Not everyone has had to pay, because Clinic 554 in Fredericton, the only clinic to offer surgical abortion in the province, had a policy of not turning away those without access to the funds to cover the procedure. Clinic 554 has been up for sale and winding down its services, which it says is due to the funding gap created by regulation 84-20.
It’s estimated those costs for 2017 totalled roughly $140,000, which is why the federal government, this year, will be withholding that much from New Brunswick’s share of the Canada Health Transfer. The federal government says that by not covering surgical abortions, New Brunswick is violating the Canada Health Act.
Mitton says that’s an issue that could easily be solved by the Higgs government.
“It’s a regulation, it’s not even a law. Simply with a stroke of a pen, they could get rid of the problematic section of regulation 84-20,” says Mitton, “and allow for Medicare funding for all abortion services that are provided in the province.”
Mitton says that although people in her riding are relatively close to Moncton hospitals offering access to the procedure, she still hears from people who want the government to, “properly fund reproductive health care.”
“This comes down to being a discriminatory policy that is still on the books,” says Mitton. “It discriminates against a large portion of our population, anyone who would require surgical abortion.”
“We need to make sure that we don’t backslide in terms of rights around reproductive justice,” says Mitton. “As we’ve seen, it can happen. In other places, like in the US, we see states rolling back their provisions.”
New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard was asked about the loss of funding at a news conference earlier this week, when a reporter from L’Acadie Nouvelle mentioned a tweet on the topic by Liberal MLA Wayne Long. She indicated the government has no intention of changing the policy.
“It’s not new news,” said Shephard on Tuesday. “Mr. Long is going to beat this drum. And we’re proceeding as per our policies that we’ve had in place.”
In December 2020, the government amended a Liberal motion calling for the funding of surgical abortion at Clinic 554. A government-amended motion instead asked the Horizon and Vitalité health networks to look into whether the regulation was indeed in violation of the Canada Health Act, as the federal government has said since 2017.
Mitton says she would like to see what the health authorities found out.
“I would only hope that it would be made public because having this debate where they just say ‘status quo is status quo’ is unacceptable. Because the status quo is not acceptable to many New Brunswickers," says Mitton.
Mitton says regulation 84-20, which has been on the books through successive governments, is designed to minimize access to surgical abortion.
“It’s unacceptable that it stays on the books,” says Mitton. “It needs to be changed immediately.”
Hear this story as reported on Tantramar Report: