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Rallies across Canada demand equal abortion access for women in New Brunswick

Maureen Aslin

April 25, 2014

More than 150 supporters showed up for an emergency rally at Dundas Square in Toronto on April 17 as part of nationwide solidarity rallies in support of the women of New Brunswick. The closure of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton is an attack on choice, and the reproductive justice movement across the country is responding.
Each year 800-900 women have had abortions at the Fredericton clinic, despite the lack of government funding. Under anti-choice Regulation 84-20, the provincial government denies funding to the clinic because it does not provide abortions in a hospital and with prior approval of two doctors. The province’s failure for the last 20 years to fund the clinic and the $1 million in legal fees spent suing the province, are forcing it to close.
After July the only access to abortion in New Brunswick will be in a hospital and after the approval of two doctors who deem it “medically necessary.” As protest signs said, “the government of New Brunswick is not medically necessary,” but access to abortion is, and should be entirely up to women. Any other abstract criteria denies women’s control over their own bodies, and revives the paternalistic “therapeutic abortion committees” that were defeated by the women’s movement a generation ago.
The closure of the Morgentaler clinic will particularly impact women in PEI seeking abortions, where there is no access to abortion, and 50 per cent of whom travel to the Fredericton clinic. Travel costs, childcare, lost work time, and the cost of the procedure make it especially difficult for low-income women. 
That the government of New Brunswick has been able to deny funding to an abortion clinic for two decades, against the Canada Health Act, shows the complicity of the federal government in failing to enforce the law—as part of its many anti-choice policies. At the rally NDP MP Peggy Nash spoke out against the Harper government: “We demand the federal government enforce the Canada Health Act to guarantee equal access.”
The rally also included labour activists from the Steelworkers and OPSEU, a speaker from the Immigrant Women's Health Centre, and an appeal to support the campaign for justice for missing and murdered aboriginal women.
If you like this article, register for Marxism 2014: Resisting a System in Crisis, a weekend-long conference June 14-15 in Toronto. Sessions include "How do we win reproductive justice: past and present struggles," “Sexism, racism and the war on women,” “World Pride and LGBT liberation,” and “Today’s resistance to the genocide of Indigenous People.”

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