New Brunswick is once again home to a single private abortion clinic with the opening of Clinic 554, a community clinic that will fill the gap for family practices, reproductive health and LGBTQ services in the province.
The opening of the Clinic 554 was the result of many months of activism and fundraising spurred by the closing of the former private abortion clinic in the province, the Morgentaler Clinic. Reproductive Justice New Brunswick and Fredericton Youth Feminists were two groups that led the charge.
“One of the options that we tried to do was purchase the clinic in the hopes that a family doctor would be able to come and open a practice and also be able to provide this really, really important service. So we began a crowd-funding campaign where we raised over $125,000, which went to help purchase this clinic,” said Jessi Taylor, a spokesperson for Reproductive Justice New Brunswick.
Clinic 554 is located in the same building as the Morgentaler Clinic. But it does far more than offer abortions.
“Actually it does way more than [the Morgentaler Clinic]. So where the Morgentaler Clinic had very few services, mostly about abortions, they could help you get an IUD but they didn’t really provide any other medical services. This is a full-time family practice,” said Taylor.
The new clinic, under the direction of Dr. Adrian Eoin Edgar, will also help relieve the waitlists for family physicians in the province.
“We have taken 600 patients from the waitlist which is really important in a province where many of us are without a doctor, and it’s also open to trans and LGBT folk who are also in need of services and are even less likely to have access to medical services,” Taylor said.
The clinic will offer hormone readiness assessments, counselling services, hormone replacement therapy and many other services for gender variant and transgender patients.
For many, the fact that activism was needed to create the clinic speaks to a greater problem in the province.
“I guess I’m sad about how it came about. I’m not altogether pleased about the hoops people had to jump through. That shouldn’t be necessary,” said Cassandra Long, vice-chair of the UNB/STU Women’s Centre.
Although the opening of Clinic 554 is a step forward in reproductive rights in the province, Taylor said there is still a long way to go.
“So what we had before the Morgentaler clinic closed was already not acceptable,” Taylor said. “Unlike the rest of the services offered that are usually covered by Medicare, because it’s not in a hospital, the government refuses to fund abortions in clinic settings.”
“The $700 to $800 fee that a woman needs to pay for [abortions] makes it really, really difficult for some people to access it.”
The New Brunswick government will fund abortions but only when they are done in a hospital. Only two hospitals in the province offer abortion services — the Bathurst Chaleur Regional Hospital and the Moncton Hospital.
“It’s so good to have such an important service in Fredericton and unfortunately it does really little for people who are further away. But it’s one more option, one more place,” Taylor said.