New Brunswick's NDP is accusing the provincial Liberal Opposition of misleading voters on its abortion policy.
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant seemed to open the door to changing his party’s long-standing policy on abortion after the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton announced it will close.
The Liberals have long supported the provincial policy of funding hospital abortions through medicare only if they're considered medically necessary and two doctors agree, meaning, in effect, there was no debate and no difference of opinion between the Tories and Liberals on abortion.
Now, Gallant said that policy may be too restrictive and has called for a review of the policy in light of the Morgentaler clinic's decision to close.
"I personally am pro-choice. I personally think the two-doctor rule is a barrier,” Gallant said.
“I do think that there's a legal obligation from us to ensure access. That's why I've extended my hand to the premier, for us to deal with this in the next few months, when the clinic will close in July."
Gallant said if Premier David Alward doesn't launch a review, the Liberals will launch one if the party wins the election in September.
Gallant, however, would not commit to changing the policy.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy says Gallant is playing politics and hasn't changed longstanding Liberal support for the restrictions.
"He says he's personally pro-choice, lovely … I'm not interested in peoples' personal opinions. I'm interested in how people are going to lead their party," said Cardy, who also called for action before the election to deal with the pending closure of the Morgentaler clinic.
“The legislature will rise for the last time before the election in a few weeks. To ensure there are no gaps in service for New Brunswick women, government must act now to change the regulations,” Dominic Cardy said in a statement.
The NDP wants no restriction on abortions and wants them covered by medicare.
Gallant "has not made any change to the Liberal Party's position. He's been very clear on that," said Cardy.
Green Party leader David Coon thinks Gallant's comments do mean something.
"I would say he's moving, and he's going to be moving his party on it," he said.
Meanwhile, Alward said Friday that Gallant has not made any formal request for a review.
"There's been nothing take place thus far," he said.
Alward would not say what he will do if Gallant does submit a request through the proper channels.
"What we do have in place in New Brunswick right now is access. It's access through two hospitals — and there is a court case," he said, referring to Morgentaler's lawsuit against the province.
The Morgentaler clinic opened in June 1994 and has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women.
The province's Department of Health, however, has always refused to cover abortions performed at the clinic, making it the only province in Canada with a private abortion clinic that isn't funded by medicare.
The current fee for the procedure is $700 before 14 weeks of pregnancy, and $850 between 14 and 16 weeks.
'A barrier to health care'
Now with the Morgentaler clinic closing, Simone Liebovitch, the facility’s manager, said the provincial government must reconsider its policy on hospital abortions.
'For 20 years it's been a barrier to health care. They are going to need to improve access to hospitals.' - Simone Liebovitch, Morgentaler clinic's manager
"For 20 years it's been a barrier to health care. They are going to need to improve access to hospitals,” she said.
The provincial government’s refusal to fund abortions at the Morgentaler clinic meant the facility was never financially stable.
The clinic said on Thursday it has never been able to meet its expenses and financial shortfalls have amounted to more than $105,400 in the last decade.
Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who died nearly a year ago, covered the financial losses incurred by the clinic.
Further, the building sustained more than $100,000 in flood damages in 2008. While other downtown Fredericton businesses were given financial compensation by the provincial government, the clinic did not receive any taxpayer funds because the building was owned by Morgentaler, who was not a New Brunswick citizen.
Morgentaler launched a lawsuit against the New Brunswick government in 2002, demanding the government pay for procedures at his clinic.
The lawsuit, which the clinic says cost him more than $1 million, has been in limbo since the death of the abortion rights activist last May.