Fight to keep Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton continues

The Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton is scheduled to close on Friday, but clinic supporters haven't given up hope, raising nearly $84,000 through crowd-sourcing and have organized a march to the Legislature.

Nearly $84K raised through crowd-sourcing, march to Legislature set for Friday when clinic slated to close

Supporters across New Brunswick and Canada are fighting to keep the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton open.

The private abortion facility — the only one in the Maritimes — is slated to perform its last abortion on Friday, then close its doors, following a 20-year fight with the provincial government over funding.

Simone Liebovitch, manager of the Fredericton Morgentaler clinic, has a $5 donation and letter she received pinned to her bulletin board. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)
But the clinic's operators hope to secure its lease beyond the end of the month through a crowd-sourcing campaign launched by Reproductive Justice New Brunswick earlier this month.

Nearly $84,000 has been raised to date, primarily through online donations.

One person who didn't know how to make a donation online mailed a $5 bill, along with a letter.

The letter, now pinned to manager Simone Liebovitch's bulletin board, states: "Hi there. Our clinic cannot close. This is not much, but I hope it will help. Good luck."

The clinic's lease ends on July 31. The fundraising goal is $100,000.

"What we're trying to do is preserve this building, that physicians can work here, that they can offer a full range of reproductive services," said Liebovitch.

March to legislature on Friday

Clinic supporters are also continuing to lobby the provincial government to change its regulations and are planning a march from the clinic to the Legislature on Friday.

Liebovitch says some teens are involved in organizing the march, which makes her hopeful.

The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, seen here in a file picture, is set to perform its last abortion on Friday, before closing its doors to the public. (CBC)
"I think there's a movement here and the tables are starting to turn. So how do you put pressure on politicians? Get angry," she said.

Under the current Medical Services Payment Act, the government only pays for abortions at two hospitals, and only if a woman gets approval from two doctors who certify the procedure is “medically necessary.”

The Department of Health refuses to cover abortions performed at the Fredericton 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.

Clinic officials say about 60 per cent of the abortions performed in New Brunswick are done at the clinic.

Women in New Brunswick have a rough road and they've had it for a long time and things need to change.- Simone Liebovitch, Morgentaler clinic

"Women in New Brunswick have a rough road and they've had it for a long time and things need to change," said Liebovitch.

"This law is a crock … New Brunswick needs to be ashamed of itself."

In response to a request for an interview on Tuesday, Health Minister Ted Flemming emailed a statement.

"Access to this medical service will still be available in our province if the clinic closes," Flemming said. "Women will continue to have access to medically-necessary abortions in the province with the approval of two physicians."

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant has said his party would review the act, if in power.

"Repealing the legislation is definitely an option," Liberal health critic Donald Arseneault told CBC News on Tuesday. "But we want to hear from the experts if that's the only option," he said.

Katleeen Pye, chair of Reproductive Justice New Brunswick, who helped organize the crowd-sourcing campaign, says the clinic closing will affect the most vulnerable women.

"It really does impact women who are already in vulnerable situations. So those who may not have the same finances to be able to go out of province, that don't have access to a physician. It really is going to affect the most vulnerable women," she said.

If Reproductive Justice is unable to raise the full $100,000, all money raised will go toward renewed efforts to overturn the Medical Services Payment Act.

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

Its pending closure was announced in April.