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Canada Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland visits Clinic 554 in Fredericton

03:05  24 july  2021
03:05  24 july  2021 Source:   globalnews.ca

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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Clinic 554 in Fredericton as part of a two-stop tour of the province with MP Jenica Atwin.

a group of people standing in a room: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Fredericton on Friday, including Clinic 554. © Nathalie Sturgeon / Global News Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Fredericton on Friday, including Clinic 554.

Freeland met with clinic staff and discussed the services they provide. They also talked about the struggles the clinic has faced with some of its critical services.

Clinic 554 provides a variety of health care services to the LGBTQ2 community, including out-of-hospital abortions. The clinic hit a critical point a few years ago and scaled down services.

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Eventually, its medical director, Dr. Adrain Edgar, put the clinic up for sale after the Higgs government declined to provide out-of-hospital abortions, saying abortion access in New Brunswick was adequate. The regulation is 84-20. It limits funding for abortions performed outside the designated hospitals, which are in Bathurst and Moncton.

In not providing out-of-hospital abortions, the Higgs government is violating the Canada Health Act, according to the federal government.

Read more: Health authorities are responsible for abortion access, not the government: Higgs

The federal government cut health transfers to try and force the government to fund the clinic, but nothing has changed. New Brunswick lost approximately $140,000, with the federal government saying the province has failed in its obligation to fund out-of-hospital abortions.

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Freeland did not announce any new funding for Clinic 554 or abortion access in New Brunswick during her visit on Friday. Instead, she referred to money previously set in the budget.

Despite that, Edgar said he left the meeting feeling positive.

"The Canada Health Act sort of says that every province should provide the same standard of health care, and New Brunswick is behind," he said following the meeting.

Federal government remains clear

Freeland said the federal government is clear.

"The clawback is significant," she said speaking to reporters Friday. "We mean what we say when it comes to that."

In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to ensure out-of-hospital abortions would be funded in New Brunswick, and that has yet to happen.

Read more: Canada cuts health transfer in response to New Brunswick’s position on abortion outside hospitals

Freeland said she remains steadfast in her talks with the Higgs government.

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"Every Canadian has the same rights to access essential health services and sexual and reproductive services, including abortions," she said. "We all have the right to access those services.

"Our government is very clear on that. We are very clear about a women's right to choose."

Provincial government facing constitutional challenge

However, the federal government isn't the only organization Higgs has to contend with.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit against the province of New Brunswick, contesting restricted abortion access in the province.

Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Tracey DeWare granted the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s request for public interest standing to launch their constitutional challenge. The group argues the law limits access to abortions, particularly for poor and marginalized people.

The New Brunswick government subsidizes abortions at two hospitals in Moncton and one in Bathurst, but it won’t cover the cost of the procedure at Clinic 554 in Fredericton.

The rule prevents many people in New Brunswick from accessing essential health care, either by forcing them to travel to one of the three authorized hospitals for an abortion, or to pay out of pocket at Edgar’s clinic in Fredericton, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

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