N.B. court gives nod to Morgentaler's challenge

Abortion provider Dr. Henry Morgentaler has the legal right to challenge the New Brunswick government's policy on abortion funding, a judge has ruled.

Abortion provider Dr. Henry Morgentaler has the legal right to challenge the New Brunswick government's policy on abortion funding, a judge has ruled.

Morgentaler is trying to force the government to pay for abortions done at his private Fredericton clinic. Currently, women pay the $750 fee themselves, while the province only pays for abortions approved by two physicians and performed at an approved hospital.

When the case first went to court in 2007, the province tried to stop it by arguing that Morgentaler did not have the legal standing required to challenge the policy. Instead, the province said, only a woman who had used the abortion clinic had the right to question the government's payment policy.

In a decision made public this week, New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench Judge Paulette Garnett rejected the province's argument, saying Morgentaler has the legal right to take the case to court .

"There are many valid reasons why women who have had abortions at the Fredericton clinic would not or could not bring this challenge," Garnett ruled. "Dr. Morgentaler is therefore a suitable alternative person to do so."

The decision is a major victory, said Rosella Melanson, executive director of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

"Dr. Morgentaler seems to have won on all counts," she said. "So finally, it will get to court, hopefully soon."

The government said it is reviewing Garnett's decision before deciding whether it will appeal.