On September 25, several protests took place in Fredericton fighting against the closure of Clinic 554, organized by FLIP Saint John. Additionally, a camp-out and vigil took place at the legislative building, which was organized by Save Clinic 554 and challenged by local police.
Clinic 554 is the only place in New Brunswick to get an out of hospital abortion, and it provides services for indivuals of all backgrounds who often have no other place to go. The clinic is being forced to close its doors due to a lack of funding, and has only days left. The closure of the clinic will leave 3000 of its patients without care, adding to the already staggering number of New Brunswick residents without a family doctor.
“…now, more than ever, we need support from young Canadians everywhere, whether it be online or offline; they are our province’s future and they need to make it clear how important the clinic is to that future,” said Lilly Innis, local organizer of the protests.
Uptown, two students stood outside of Fredericton High School, holding signs and chanting “Save Clinic 554” to cars as they drove past. Xiuting Shi and Summer Perrin are in grades 12 and nine, respectively. They shared disappointment at the lack of support from other students and staff at the high school.
Downtown, directly outside of Clinic 554, there was a protest of approximately 12 people. They held signs, cheered, and encouraged passing cars to honk to show their support.
“It hurts to know that this is my province. This is where I live, this is where I want to live the rest of my life… I’m here to fight for that, I’m here to fight for all the women, I’m here to fight for everybody that is a part of the LGBTQ+ community who needs support and who needs a clinic like this,” said Emily Keats, a tenth grade student.
Save Clinic 554 organized a campout at the Legislative Assembly building to take place over the weekend of September 25, as well as a candlelight vigil. The event began at four p.m., and was quickly served a notice by three police officers and the Sergeant at Arms stating that they were not permitted to enact structures, referring to the tents that had been erected. This notice was dated September 25, 2020.
After the vigil began, police officers arrived and began removing tents. The following quote is taken from a statement released on the Save Clinic 554 Facebook page:
“Last night, as about 35 people gathered and were listening to testimonials when about 10 police and security guards arrived and began to take the tents away. We protested vociferously and told them that their actions were unlawful but they persisted.”
Prior to the start of the event, The Brunswickan approached David Coon for a comment as he walked into the Legislative Assembly building.
“There is no excuse, there is no rationale, other than some politicians putting their personal views on abortion onto the backs of New Brunswick women, creating incredible inequity in terms of accessing productive health services for women in this province,” said Coon.
Jenica Atwin, Green Party MP for New Brunswick, expressed despair at the closing of Clinic 554, and is prepared to continue the fight for Clinic 554.
“It doesn’t mean we stop fighting. It doesn’t mean that we end the conversation about access in New Brunswick, and we will continue to fight, we will continue to raise awareness and that’s what this is really about today. So it’s not over but it’s certainly a chapter that’s closing and it’s devastating,” Atwin shared.
Karen Pearlston and Kerri Froc are both educators at UNB Law, and immediately recognized the gross injustice of the closing of Clinic 554.
Pearlston has a history of working toward abortion rights and believes that the fight to save Clinic 554 is not over.
“We know why the clinic can’t stay open right now, right? Blaine Higgs. And before him, Brian Gallant wouldn’t fund the clinic. They wouldn’t get rid of regulation 84-20, which prohibits Medicare payments for abortions that are provided outside of hospitals,” explained Pearlston.
After seeing her former student, Kathleen Adams, camping out for multiple days as a protest to the closure of the clinic, Kerri Froc knew that she had to join the fight. She explained that the public needs to be putting constant pressure on politicians to repeal regulation 84-20.
“Unless there’s political pressure like this, they won’t do anything. So that’s why young people have to get involved, students have to get involved. They have to be contacting their MLA’s and the Premier’s office. That’s the only way anything’s going to change,” Froc explained.