New Brunswick

Abortions may not be offered at all hospitals, Gallant says

Premier Brian Gallant says abortions don't have to be offered in all New Brunswick hospitals to be accessible.

Premier's comments come as new poll shows nearly half of New Brunswickers support access

Premier Brian Gallant says abortions don't have to be offered in all New Brunswick hospitals to be accessible.

"It's like any other service. There are some that are provided at certain hospitals and some that are provided at others," he said on Thursday.

Premier Brian Gallant removed the so-called two doctor rule in New Brunswick, effective Jan. 1. (James West/Canadian Press)
​"New Brunswickers are used to that kind of health care system, and it'll be the same case here."

Gallant's comments come just days after new provincial rules meant to remove restrictions to the procedure took effect, and as a new poll suggests the majority of New Brunswickers accept better access.

It's not yet clear how many hospitals will offer the procedure.

The Vitalité Health Network currently performs abortions at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre ​in Moncton and the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst.

No additional hospitals in the southeast and northern district are planned at this time, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Horizon Health Network says it is still working out its plans for the service, which it hopes to start providing in April.

"Since this service was not previously offered by Horizon, issues such as space, staffing, protocols and identifying physicians to provide the service are currently being addressed," the regional health authority said in an emailed statement.

Poll finds 48% pro-choice

Nearly half of New Brunswickers are pro-choice, according to a new poll by Corporate Research Associates Inc.

Of the 400 adult respondents, 48 per cent said they believe abortions should be available within the first three months of pregnancy.

Thirteen per cent oppose abortion, while 31 per cent think abortions should only be available in limited circumstances, such as incest and rape, the poll, released on Thursday, found.

The telephone survey was conducted Nov. 5-30, just Gallant announced his government would remove the so-called two doctor rule, which had restricted access to abortion services in New Brunswick for two decades.

Under Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act, women seeking an abortion had to have two doctors certify it as medically necessary in order for it to be covered, and the procedure could be done only by a specialist in a hospital.

But under the amendment, which took effect on Jan. 1, abortions are now in the same category as any insured medical service.

Gallant says his decision to loosen restrictions was about women's rights, not public opinion.

"We don't pay too much attention to polls, but of course, I did see them," he said.

Support for abortion up since 2008

The number of abortion supporters has increased in New Brunswick over the past five years, according to the CRA.

In an August 2008 survey, only 42 per cent were pro-choice, while 17 per cent were opposed. The number of those who supported access in limited circumstances was unchanged, at 31 per cent.

The latest CRA poll was conducted across Atlantic Canada, and the New Brunswick results are similar to those in the rest of the region.

Of the 1,500 adult respondents from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador, 50 per cent said abortions should be available to women who want them during the first trimester.

Eleven per cent said abortions should not be available under any circumstances, while 31 per cent said they should be available in only limited circumstances.

The overall results are accurate to within 2.5 percentage points, 95 per cent of the time, CRA said.

The New Brunswick sample size is considered accurate in 19 polls out of 20.


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