Pro-choice activists rally outside legislature

A crowd of pro-choice activists are protesting outside the legislative assembly today, demanding the provincial government properly fund abortion services.

Fredericton's Morgentaler abortion clinic will be closing in July

Sorcha Beirne, 16, president of the Fredericton Youth Feminists, spoke at the pro-choice rally in Fredericton on Thursday. (CBC)

A crowd of approximately 400 pro-choice activists are protesting outside the legislative assembly today, demanding the provincial government properly fund abortion services.

The protesters heckled and jeered government and opposition politicians alike.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant told the crowd he believes New Brunswick is not complying with the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on abortion.

Protesters gathered at the New Brunswick Legislature Friday to demand improved access to abortion following the announced closure of the Morgentaler clinic. (Jacques Poitras /CBC)
When Gallant mentioned his request for the Alward government to review its regulations before the clinic closes in July, he was met with cries of "not enough" and "no more studies" from the crowd.

Gallant later said in a scrum with reporters that he thinks the review would lead to a repeal of the regulation. 

 "It has definitely become a political issue, which is unfortunate," said Margaret Fitzgerald, who attended the rally. "It should not be a political issue. It has been debated and debated and debated and the law now says this is our right."

Haley Ward, 15, attends Leo Hayes High School. She said this was her first protest.

"Once I heard about it, I was all in," she said.

Cabinet ministers Marie-Claude Blais, Claude Williams and Madeleine Dubé were on hand to listen to the speakers at the rally.

Blais, the government's minister responsible for the status of women, told the crowd "We will bring your words back to government."

Blais was roundly booed as she departed.

Fredericton’s Morgentaler clinic announced last week it was going to close its doors in July after a 20-year battle for funding with the provincial government.

Earlier this week, the family of Dr. Henry Morgentaler asked the lawsuit against the New Brunswick government be officially discontinued

A spokesperson for Health Minister Ted Flemming would not comment on Wednesday because the Office of the Attorney General has yet to be advised that the case has in fact been dropped.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy said he’s embarrassed by the provincial government’s handling of the abortion issue. Cardy said he is waiting to hear what the provincial government is going to do now that the lawsuit has been dropped.

A protester holds up a pro-choice pin during a rally in Fredericton. (CBC)
"Let's hope that whoever the lawyers are have used a good courier service or our friends at Canada Post and that [Flemming] gets that letter soon and we can get a comment from him," Cardy said.

The Department of Health 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 provincial government pays for abortions at two hospitals, but only if a woman gets approval from two doctors who certify the procedure is “medically necessary.”

The Morgentaler clinic is the only private abortion facility in New Brunswick.

The clinic says it has never been able to meet its expenses and financial shortfalls were covered by Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who died nearly a year ago.

The Morgentaler clinic opened in June 1994 and has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant is pushing for an independent review of the province’s access to abortion services.

Gallant said the existing two-doctor policy may be too restrictive. However, the Liberal leader would not commit to changing the policy.