December 15, 2014

New Brunswick's Liberal government is removing restrictions to make access to abortion easier in the Maritime province.

"As one newspaper headline said today, it is a monumental shift in public policy on abortion here in New Brunswick," said Peter Ryan, executive director of Right to Life New Brunswick.

"For many years New Brunswick and (Prince Edward Island) have stood apart from the rest of Canada in that we have not had a policy on tax-funded abortion on demand. Now that has changed."

On Nov. 26 Premier Brian Gallant announced his government would remove two legal regulations as of Jan. 1 that restrict open access to abortion.

Those seeking an abortion in New Brunswick will no longer require the signed approval of two doctors, and those performing abortions will no longer require a specialist classification; even family doctors will be allowed to perform abortions.

"We saw it coming but it is a heavy blow for anyone who believes in the right to life or the true health of women," said Ryan. "This is going to change our abortion situation rather drastically."

The change comes just two months after the Liberals won a majority in the provincial election.

During his campaign Gallant "made (abortion) an election issue," said Ryan, by promising to review the 20-year-old two-signature requirement.

Despite the premier's office indicating no review had taken place as of early November, "we have identified the barriers and are proceeding to eliminate them in order to respect our legal obligations under the Supreme Court of Canada ruling and the Canada Health Act regarding a woman's right to choose," reads a statement issued by Gallant on Nov. 26.


Conversations surrounding abortions reignited in New Brunswick when the Morgentaler Abortion Clinic in Fredericton shut its doors in June. The clinic received no government funding to perform abortions. This in part prompted Gallant to raise the issue of government funding for abortion during the election campaign.

Ryan believes approval is not yet guaranteed.

"The opposition here is considering bringing this matter to a vote in the legislature which I think is the right thing to do," said Ryan. "There are enough people in (Gallant's) caucus who are not pro-choice that if that matter comes to a vote it could be quite ticklish."

If the changes go ahead, Ryan predicts next year alone there will be an additional 1,000 abortions in New Brunswick. That would bring the province in line with the provincial per capita average in Canada.

Letter to the Editor – 01/12/15