New Brunswick Medical Society calls for abortion access plan

The New Brunswick Medical Society is calling on the provincial government to develop a plan to make sure there are no barriers to access abortion in the province, but says the contentious two-doctor rule isn’t the problem.

Doctors' group says 2 doctor rule no different than any other procedure

Left to right: Jenna Knorr, Erica Knorr and Megan Aiken take part in a protest as pro-choice demonstrators rally at the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Hundreds of people gathered in front of the New Brunswick legislature for a pro-choice rally aimed at getting the provincial government to fund abortions at private clinics. (David Smith/CP)

The New Brunswick Medical Society is calling on the provincial government to develop a plan to make sure there are no barriers to access abortion in the province, but says the contentious two-doctor rule isn’t the problem.

The recent closure of the private Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton has led activists to call for the repeal of regulation 84-20 of the New Brunswick Medical Services Payment Act. It stipulates that abortions are paid for only if they are performed in one of two approved hospitals after being deemed medically necessary by two physicians.

Supporters of abortion rights, including NDP leader Dominic Cardy, say the two-doctor rule is one of the biggest restrictions to abortion access.

“The action is simple...pick up their pen and put a line through 84-20,” said Cardy during a recent pro-choice rally.

But the organization representing New Brunswick's doctors says that regulation isn't really the problem.

"It's the same as any other health issue,” said Dr. Camille Haddad, the society’s president-elect.

A doctor prepares for an abortion. The organization representing New Brunswick's doctors wants there to be fewer barriers to abortion in the province. (Ng Han Guan/Reuters)

Haddad says any procedure requires a referral from a family doctor and a consultation with a specialist.

"It's a decision between those two people, a family doctor and the woman, and the specialist and that's it,” he said.

Haddad says the barriers to access lie elsewhere. For example, some family doctors refuse to refer women for abortions and some hospitals lack the resources to perform them in a timely matter.

The society says it wants the New Brunswick government to come up with a plan to address those barriers.

No one from the Department of Health, or the abortion-rights group Reproductive Justice, responded to CBC’s request for comment on the society's statement.

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