New Brunswick’s Minister of Health, Bruce Fitch, has recently introduced a bill to fund medical procedures performed outside of hospitals. The Minister of Health initially proposed that the bill would only cover cataract surgeries.
Fitch admitted to reporters that other procedures — such as vasectomies and colonoscopies — could be funded in the future, despite the Minister’s self-proclaimed “squeamishness” in talking about the lower body. Fitch placed the funding of surgical abortions beyond the realm of possibility, despite the province’s well-documented issues with access to the procedures.
The Minister of Health’s position on health issues in “that part of the body” caught the attention and concern of the public. On Twitter, many New Brunswickers pointed to the dissonance of a Minister of Health claiming “squeamishness” when discussing medical procedures.
User @PaulVMartin wrote: “Sounds more like a teenager going through puberty than a Minister of Health.” Adrien Lebouthillier (@DukeLeBout) echoed the theme of immaturity, responding to the Minister’s remarks with “where are the adults?”
Kate Palmer is the UNB Student Union’s Women’s Representative and the chair of the UNB Menstrual Health Society.
“When you’re in such a powerful role like that, you are really required to be completely unbiased and professional when referencing medical practices,” Palmer explained.
For Palmer, Martin’s “remarks represent a really traditional, conservative, and closed-off mindset.”
“I think a lot, if not all, of New Brunswick, is stuck in avoiding any progression in society.”
The “squeamishness” of the Minister aside, reporters questioned whether the bill would cover out-of-hospital surgical abortions. Fitch responded that the Act did not represent a change in the government’s position regarding the funding of abortions.
He reasoned: “[The hospitals] came back to us saying there’s not a waitlist and you can obtain the procedure in a very expedient way.”
Nevertheless, access to reproductive care has been a long-standing problem in New Brunswick. “Only three New Brunswick hospitals even perform surgical abortions,” notes Palmer. “The closest to Fredericton is in Moncton. It is so not accessible.”
Two of the hospitals are located in Moncton, while one is located in Bathurst. The sparse and uneven distribution complicates access to abortions in New Brunswick, especially for those in a lower income bracket.
Mirroring these concerns, Dr. Adrian Edgar, a Clinic 554 doctor, penned an open letter to Bruce Fitch. The letter was published on NB Media Co-op, on Oct. 2, 2022. “Abortions provided outside of hospitals require immediate funding in New Brunswick.” Edgar writes. “The need is dire.”
Throughout the letter, Edgar mentions the benefits of out-of-hospital surgical abortions.
“Abortions provided outside hospital settings cause fewer infections, require fewer repeat surgeries, necessitate fewer ER visits, and lead to fewer admissions to hospital than abortions provided in hospital settings.” He also notes that Fitch’s department is knowledgeable of this information, having received plenty of letters from other medical organizations.