Deputy PM promises new measures to push New Brunswick to fund abortion clinic

Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland said on Friday that the federal government will announce “in the coming days” how it intends to secure public funding for abortions at the 554 clinic in Fredericton.

Freeland said Ottawa remained committed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise two years ago that he would “ensure” that the province funds the procedure at the clinic.

“It shouldn’t be as difficult as Clinic 554 to provide its essential services to our trans community, families and women who deserve access to reproductive and sexual health services,” she said. to reporters on a visit to Fredericton.

Asked about Trudeau’s commitment in 2019, Freeland said the federal government made a “significant” clawback of health transfer payments last year to punish the province and will make a new announcement soon. .

“We mean what we say about it,” she said.

“We recognize and applaud the role Clinic 554 plays in providing these services, and we will have more to say specifically in the coming days.”

In a town hall with voters on Wednesday night, Fredericton Liberal MP Jenica Atwin said she would soon be hosting “health-related announcements that are particularly exciting to me, and I know they will be too.” for you “.

Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin announced in June that she was leaving the federal Green Party to sit as a Liberal. (Guy LeBlanc / Radio-Canada)

Freeland, who is also finance minister, was the second member of the federal cabinet to visit Fredericton in a week, giving Atwin the opportunity to highlight his access to national decision-makers ahead of a possible election.

Atwin quit the Green Party for the Liberals in June because of an internal Greens feud. She said joining the government would allow her to do more for her constituency.

Freeland was in Fredericton to talk about job creation, but visited Clinic 554 with Atwin “to show our government’s support for access by women across the country to sexual and productive health services,” he said. she declared.

In remarks to reporters, she pointed to a $ 45 million fund in the last federal budget to help sexual and reproductive health facilities by funding training programs and travel and logistical support for patients who live far away.

But that’s a far cry from the promise Trudeau made in October 2019.

“We will ensure that the Government of New Brunswick allows access, at a cost, to clinics that provide abortion services outside of hospitals,” he said.

He promised to tell Premier Blaine Higgs that Ottawa would use “all the tools at our disposal, including the tools that exist under the Canada Health Act.”

This law says that nothing can “hinder… directly or indirectly… reasonable access” to publicly funded health services.

But so far, Ottawa has done little more than withholding a small amount, $ 140,000, in health care transfers to New Brunswick.

Higgs says the province is on a solid legal footing and that funding for abortions at three hospitals is sufficient to comply with federal law.

Fredericton’s 554 Clinic said it was forced to close due to the province’s refusal to fund abortions outside of hospitals. The clinic still offers some services. (Mike Heenan / CBC)

Clinic 554 announced its upcoming closure in 2019, blaming the province’s refusal to fund abortions at the facility. The clinic also offered other Medicare-funded services.

Despite this warning, the clinic is still partially open, although the building remains for sale.

He cut services, but a voicemail message Friday said he remained open to abortions and the insertion or removal of intrauterine devices, a form of birth control.

No one from the clinic responded to a message on Friday requesting an update on their status.

Medicare funded abortions are now offered in three New Brunswick hospitals: two in Moncton – the Moncton Hospital and the Dr-Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Center – and the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit to force the province to fund abortions at the clinic.

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