Morgentaler closure will cost those seeking abortions

With the Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton closing this summer, many New Brunswick women will choose to go outside the province for the procedure — but it will come at a cost.

More women will travel out of province for assessment, procedure

Many New Brunswick women will chose to leave the province for abortions in light of the summer closing of the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton. 2:09

With the Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton closing this summer due to funding shortfalls, many New Brunswick women will choose to go outside the province for the procedure — but it will come at a cost.

Nearly 500 women had abortions in New Brunswick hospitals in 2012, but more chose the Morgentaler clinic, even though the Department of Health refused to cover abortions performed there.

New Brunswick is the only province in Canada with a private abortion clinic that isn't funded by medicare. And the clinic, which opened in 1994, is the only private abortion facility east of Montreal.

After the clinic closes this summer, women can get two doctors to refer them for a "medically necessary" in-hospital procedure in the province at the Bathurst Chaleur Regional Hospital or Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton.

But women seeking abortions may decide not to navigate the New Brunswick system, opting instead to go out of province.

But for that, they will pay anywhere from $550 US for an abortion in Bangor, Maine to $1,700 for a hospital procedure in Halifax. That involves two visits, one for an assessment and another for the procedure.

The current fee for the procedure at the Morgentaler clinic is $700 before 14 weeks of pregnancy, and $850 between 14 and 16 weeks.

P.E.I. women affected

The closing also creates a serious challenge for P.E.I. women who require a safe, timely abortion, says Jane Ledwell, executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

P.E.I. is the only province where women have to leave for the procedure.

The Morgentaler clinic's closing creates an opportunity to reignite discussions about offering surgical abortions in P.E.I., says Jane Ledwell, executive director of the province's Advisory Council on the Status of Women. (CBC)
"It is just going to make life really challenging for some people who are facing a decision that they need to make quickly and who are accessing a safe and legal medical procedure that is necessary for their health," said Ledwell.

It's time to re-engage in discussion about providing local access to surgical abortions in P.E.I. hospitals, she says.

The association will continue to encourage the province and health care providers to take action, Ledwell says.

Dangerous time

Former education professor, Elizabeth Blaney, says the situation takes her back over 20 years.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s she drove women who could not easily access abortions in New Brunswick to the Morgentaler clinic in Montreal.

It was a dangerous time, she says.

"I remember seeing the windows of the clinic down on the bottom on the street level broken from people throwing rocks, and protesting against women's rights."

The drives were long, and often tear-filled, she said.

Blaney knew how they felt.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Elizabeth Blaney drove women who couldn't access abortions in New Brunswick to Montreal. (CBC)
"I had two abortions in my life. The first one, I was a young woman and I couldn't look after two children. It was impossible. And it was poverty."

She was a single mother trying to get through university. Her second abortion was later in life.

Blaney says she often thinks of both decisions.

"Not with regret, but just with, that those are hard things to do. It's not something that's flip. We're not flip about any of these things. It's serious business."

Blaney says if she is needed, she will drive women again.

"Of course, I'll be getting back in my car, of course."

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