The legacy of Clinic 554

Still of the building for the previously closes 'Clinic 554,' located on Barrack Lane in downtown Fredericton. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

On Jan. 31, the only clinic offering abortions in Fredericton officially closed down due to lack of government funding.

Throughout Clinic 554’s 29-year run, it has been a light in the lives of those needing both reproductive care and trans healthcare. Now, there are no other options for those needing abortions in the Fredericton area.

“It doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately. I don’t think anything else was going to happen, because their opinion about whether or not trans healthcare and abortion rights matter or are accessible is like arguing with a wall,” said Olivier Hébert, former Save Clinic 554 organizer and St. Thomas University alumni.

In an Aquinian article from 2019, Hébert is featured speaking about a protest held outside of the Health Minister’s downtown office. At the time, the main clinic and the trans healthcare being offered was being forced to shut down. 

Related: Abortion clinic set to close

Save Clinic 554, a movement that advocated for funding the clinic and held the protest, is now inactive. Hébert said this was due to burn out and an inability to mobilize following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were already tired and we go to these protests and they wouldn’t even come out to talk to us. We knew that they could afford to wait us out,” they said. “They could afford to let the poor riffraff yell themselves hoarse and then give up.”

As a nonbinary person who was a patient at Clinic 554, Hébert said they would have been lost without the clinic and the care they offered and many of their friends were in the same boat.

“At the time, I think virtually 100 per cent of the people I knew that were accessing care were patients there. It was the place,” they said. “If Clinic 554 wasn’t there, I don’t know how I would have transitioned, period.”

Although the clinic closed for trans healthcare in 2019, Hébert said there are still limited resources for transgender people in Fredericton. As a step-parent to a trans child, they have found it difficult to access care, as there is only one nurse in Fredericton offering the service they need.

They said the current rise in right-wing extremism is being felt even here in Fredericton, and is also a reason for the clinic closing.

“I just feel more frustrated, I think, and I just feel more unseen and more anxious and more worried about what people will fuck around and find out.”

“I want to throw hands, not of anyone even specifically, just generally speaking. I’m like, ‘oh, my injustice is just boiling inside of me,'” they said.

Former worker with Clinic 554 and current healthcare worker Leslie Hachey-Casey said the clinic has always been an integral part of the Fredericton reproductive healthcare community.

She worked at the clinic between 2008-2011, when the conversation surrounding abortion was less socially accepted. She said every day there were protesters outside of the building, surrounding patients that had to get healthcare.

“Some people look at [abortion] as wrong, some people look at is as right, I never really had an opinion, I never judged anybody by that,” she said.

During her time at the clinic, Hachey-Casey said she serviced not just those in Fredericton, but people from all around New Brunswick and even P.E.I, as they do not have any access to abortion.

“People were coming from all over the provinces, but just like any other service, when people have to look for a service and have a hard time, that causes more stress,” she said.

She said her time at the clinic was “eye-opening,” as she provided abortion care to a diverse group of people. From young girls to 45 year-old women who didn’t want any more children, the clinic offered the service to anyone that came through the door.

Hachey-Casey reflected on the impact the clinic had on the Fredericton community and even the province.

“It gave them a safe haven to go to,” she said. “With the closure of this clinic, a lot of people are not gonna have any avenue to seek out the kind of care they need.”

Hébert shared this sentiment, giving a grim outlook on the future of reproductive care in New Brunswick.

“I don’t think we’re going to see anything other than backstreet abortions, and people getting the abortion pill illegally,” they said. “[The Higgs government] can redeem themselves by just opening a publicly funded [clinic].”