Debate on Proposed Amendment: Regulation 84-20 (Abortion Services), Dec. 18, 2014

Mr. Coon: While the rates of abortion are declining nationally, abortion remains a personal reality for women in New Brunswick. Abortion access has been legal in Canada since 1969, and it has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as a crucial component of public health care since that time. Reproductive choice is a fundamental right that successive New Brunswick governments have ignored until now. It is unconscionable that women should have to leave our province as they do to pay for a medical service that most Canadian women take for granted.

The World Health Organization has been very clear in stating that greater reproductive control improves the health of both woman and families. The significant amendments recently made by the Premier and Cabinet to Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act begin to bring the law of New Brunswick as it relates to abortion access in line with the Canadian Constitution, the charter, and the Canada Health Act. To delay these changes for the sake of a politically motivated debate would put the health of women and families at further risk. The Premier and Cabinet have followed the appropriate process in instituting these long-overdue changes—changes on which both the Premier and I campaigned in the recent election campaign,

It is important to acknowledge, at the same time, that abortion stigma is alive and well in New Brunswick. People who contemplate or seek access to abortion services can become stigmatized. Women who have had an abortion are stigmatized at times, no matter the reason or the situation. Health care providers who choose to care for families accessing abortion services have been stigmatized, and some have had their professional practices and livelihoods jeopardized. It is time for all people, no matter their circumstances, to be treated fairly, without judgment or shame.

We need more focus on prevention and on better access to accurate and meaningful health information. Families and individuals need to be able to get the information and services they need to be able to make the health choices that are right for them, and those health choices includes abortion.

Choice and control are essential. As the Supreme Court ruled a long time ago, the state has no right to impose its conscience on the consciences of women seeking to end a pregnancy.
The time has come for the public shaming and bully tactics to stop. This is New Brunswick in 2014. We all need to do better—much better.

I intend to fight for the expansion of our sexual/reproductive health clinical resources, so that adults and youth can access this currently rationed service. Best practice documents identify abortion services as being best located in community settings where confidentiality is paramount and a team of specialized health professionals can be made available. What I have been told repeatedly by the people who work on the front lines, helping people navigate our currently disjointed restrictive sexual and reproductive health services, is that what people want is not sympathy or pity. They are strong people taking charge of their lives. They want reproductive health care that does not impose judgment or shame. They recognize the stigma that exists. They want confidential, accurate information and timely access to the clinical services they need.

I understand that some health professionals continue to stigmatize people who seek abortion services. Because of this, traditional hospital and Tele-Care settings are not always emotionally safe places for women to access the help they need when they are facing an unintended pregnancy and considering all their options.

Abortion services must be delivered in the community as part of our publicly funded health system, as well as in traditional hospital operating rooms. This will require one final change to Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act.

I will continue to support a future where all people can access the health care they need to thrive and to decide whether, when and how to have children with dignity and support. Thank you.