FREDERICTON, New Brunswick, April 14, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – New Brunswick’s Liberal Party, which forms the Opposition, has stated that if the ruling Progressive Conservative (PC) government will not launch a review into funding the Morgentaler abortion clinic threatening to close this summer, then it will do so if the party wins the September election.
The Liberal Party has long upheld the status quo, in which the government funds hospital abortions deemed medically necessary by two doctors, but not at private facilities.
But after the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton — the province’s only private abortion clinic — announced on Thursday amidst a fanfare of mainstream media attention that it will be closing its doors in July, the party appeared open to change.
“I personally am pro-choice. I personally think the two-doctor rule is a barrier,” Liberal leader Brian Gallant told CBC. “I do think that there's a legal obligation from us to ensure access. That's why I've extended my hand to the premier, for us to deal with this in the next few months, when the clinic will close in July.”
Pro-life leaders have suggested the Morgentaler Clinic’s announcement is a ruse to pressure the government into changing policy.
Morgentaler sued the New Brunswick government in 2002 for not paying for abortions in his clinic, but his death in May put the suit into legal limbo.
PC Health Minister Ted Flemming issued a statement last week indicating that the province will not change its policy on denying funds to private abortion clinics. “Women will continue to have access to medically-necessary abortions in the province with the approval of two physicians,” he said.
The PCs have a majority with 42 seats to the Liberals 13. The NDP, which has made funding the Morgentaler clinic a top priority, does not hold a single seat.
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Last month students from St. Thomas University, a Catholic institution in Fredericton, launched a petition as part of a social justice project asking for a change in abortion funding policy. It has been signed by over 10,600 people.
A counter petition by New Brunswick Right to Life has been signed by 6,500.
Peter Ryan, executive director of New Brunswick Right to Life, pointed out that the pro-abortion petition in support of government funding for the clinic has received many more signatures since the announcement.
“A giant pro-abortion rally is planned for the Legislature on Holy Thursday,” he added. “So far 1,100 people have signed a Facebook page saying they plan to attend.”
He also suggested that the Liberals are hurting their electoral chances by appearing to support the Morgentaler facility.
“Mr. Gallant may find it backfires for him to appear sympathetic to the Morgentaler Clinic,” said Ryan. “Most New Brunswickers, like most Canadians, oppose using tax dollars to fund abortion on demand at private clinics. A pro-abortuary view is not a political winner here. His views also will set off reverberations within his own party and caucus. Many pro-life people usually vote Liberal. He risks alienating a lot of people.”
The Morgentaler announcement has rallied many pro-abortion feminists across the country.
“Denying access to abortion … violates women’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, conscience, and privacy,” said Patrice Powers, Montreal spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada in a press release. “Abortion is a medically necessary service without exception and all abortions must be funded whether performed at hospitals or clinics.”
The federal NDP has also thrown its weight behind the tax-funding campaign for abortion. In an open letter to the Conservative Health Minister Rona Ambrose, NDP abortion advocates Niki Ashton (Churchill) and Libby Davies (Vancouver East) asked that the Conservative government “intervene directly to enforce the Canada Health Act to ensure that women in New Brunswick have equal access to abortion services as in the rest of Canada.”