Abortions legal, but roadblocks remain

    Reproductive Justice New Brunswick spokesperson Hannah Gray said when the Morgentaler Clinic closed and reopened as Clinic 554, people stopped protesting outside the building.
    “They used to go right up to the fence,” said Gray. “But for whatever reason, they haven’t protested since [the clinic] opened. We think it’s because it’s now a family practice and protesting someone who’s going in to get their diabetes medication just looks bad.”
    But as Gray told a small group in the SUB on Thursday, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to access abortions in New Brunswick.
    Reproductive Justice New Brunswick formed when the Morgentaler Clinic closed and are largely responsible for the opening of Clinic 554. Their main focuses are on abortion access, midwifery, and health care for transgender people.
    The Reproductive Justice Snack and Chat event started off with a series of questions—if you are from New Brunswick, Ontario, or Prince Edward Island, if English is your first language, and if you identify with the gender you were born as. A “yes” response got participants a piece of candy. The more candy you had at the end of the activity, the easier it is for you to get an abortion.
    There are many reasons why participants may not have received candy. If you are from another province, hospitals have a reciprocal billing agreement, but this agreement does not apply to abortions, unless you are from Ontario or P.E.I.
    Gray, who is from Nova Scotia, said, “If I break my leg here, I’ll never see a bill, they’ll just bill Nova Scotia directly. But they won’t do that for abortion.” It would cost her $1400-1600 to have it done in hospital.
    “The Department of Health said it may not reflect the actual cost of getting an abortion but it’s a way for hospitals to make money,” said Gray.
    There are still obstacles for New Brunswick residents. There are only three hospitals performing abortions. One is in Bathurst and the other two are in Moncton, 10 minutes away from each other.
    The provincial government will only pay for in-hospital abortions. Going to a clinic will cost you $600-800. New Brunswick is the only province that won’t pay for clinic abortions.
    “[The government] is spending twice as much to limit our access,” said Gray.
    “For whatever reason, 60 per cent of the province was willing to come to the clinic and pay $700,” she said.
    There are many ways hospitals limit access. You may deal with judgment from hospital employees who may bw hostile towards abortion.
    Hospitals will only do abortions up to 13 weeks, while Clinic 554 will do them up to 16 weeks.
    This leaves a small window of opportunity, as you can’t know you’re pregnant until you’re two weeks along, assuming you even know by then. There’s also a four week wait list for abortions.
    “There’s no reason for hospitals to not go further than 13 weeks,” said Reproductive Justice NB volunteer Shona Newton. “There’s no medical reason. It’s very similar to if you had a miscarriage. If you have a miscarriage at 18 weeks they’re not going to turn around and say ‘Oh sorry, we’re not going to help you.’”
    Doctors need to write a referral for in-hospital abortions, but some doctors take weeks to do it, making the window of opportunity even smaller. Some doctors will say you need counseling or extra blood work first, which isn’t true.
    The George Dumont Hospital in Moncton is one of the three New Brunswick hospitals that perform abortions. Gray said she has called pretending to be pregnant and has spoken with people who lie about hospital policies.
    She said the Department of Health says it doesn’t happen, but it does.
    “I’ve called before and pretended to be 16 and they told me I needed my parents to come in and sign off, which is not true,” said Gray. “We’ve had people come to the clinic because the George DuMont said they’d have to pay because they’ve already had an abortion, which is not true. And they have a policy saying if you’re more than 15 minutes late you’re blacklisted from that unit of the hospital forever.”
    Reproductive Justice New Brunswick encourages people to write to their MLA, the minister of health, and premier to rally for better abortion access.