Abortion in New Brunswick: Past and Present Struggles



Abortion in New Brunswick: Past and Present Struggles

Panel presentation 

Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes Annual Conference 

May 29-June 1, 2023 | Toronto ON 

Chair: Tobin LeBlanc Haley, PhD  

Overview of the Panel

More than 30 years after the Morgentaler Decision (1988), the struggle for abortion care in New Brunswick continues. The Government of New Brunswick continues to insist that there is no procedural (surgical) abortion access problem in New Brunswick. Yet, patients are paying out-of-pocket expenses and travel long distances to access this safe and legal healthcare service. Currently, the Government of New Brunswick is facing another lawsuit, deductions in the province’s Canada Health Transfer due to extra billing for abortion, and the near closure of another clinic providing abortion services.   

Against this backdrop, a group of researchers from the University of New Brunswick, in partnership with Reproductive Justice New Brunswick, have undertaken a mixed-methods research project on barriers to access to procedural (surgical) abortion care in the province. Informed by a reproductive justice framework, this team has undertaken ethnographic research, document review, secondary data analysis and archival research to identify and better understand access barriers. This panel showcases papers that have developed from this project, providing novel empirical data that contribute to a more complete accounting of the embattled abortion landscape in this province.


Valuing Access: Policy Barriers to Reproductive Health Access in New Brunswick  

By: Jessi Taylor  and Kalum Ng

Government officials in New Brunswick are operating with an incomplete picture of the need for, and provisioning of, procedural (surgical) abortions in the province. Access to a more complete data set is urgently needed. This paper provides an overview of the current abortion policy landscape in New Brunswick and shares early data analysis from a mixed-methods project that seeks to provide a more fulsome picture of the highly contested and systematically under researched issue of access to procedural abortion in the province. Methods include interviews, focus groups, a survey, secondary analysis of abortion data in NB and archival research.    


“An Unreasonable Professional Burden”: The Role of Physicians in New Brunswick’s Abortion History.  

By: Christine Hughes and Jula Hughes  

As part of a larger research project examining the historical and current pathways to abortion access in New Brunswick, we explore the impact of pre-Morgentaler (1988) political and medical engagement with abortion. We argue that, contrary to common narratives, the 1969 partial decriminalization of abortions and the implementation of the Therapeutic Abortion Committees improved access in New Brunswick for a decade before it began deteriorating in the mid-1980s. Using newly accessible archival material from the Moncton Hospital’s OBGYN department, we show how the hospital’s TAC played a significant role in advancing access to abortion in New Brunswick. We aim to demonstrate how physicians’ concerns with legal liability and efforts to improve patient care offer insights into how they worked to improve access prior to 1988, and why looking to the needs, interests, and impacts of physicians matters to understanding historic and current barriers to access in Canada, particularly New Brunswick.  


Not Just Procedural Abortions:  Restrictions on Reproductive Healthcare in New Brunswick  

By: Mary Milliken   

While the discussion about reproductive freedoms in New Brunswick has centered around procedural (surgical) abortion, the anti-abortion political tradition in New Brunswick has far-reaching effects. This paper draws on focus group and interview data with abortion stakeholders in New Brunswick, documenting denials and obstructions in accessing reproductive care in New Brunswick; from a tubal ligation to termination of unviable pregnancy.  Mapping the political decisions of successive governments since 2015, this work demonstrates the continued restrictions on access to reproductive health care and analyzes the entrenched political culture that undervalues the reproductive health, bodily autonomy, and therefore rights, of anyone with a uterus.   


Tobin Leblanc haley

Principal Investigator  

Jessi TaYlor

Principal Investigator

Kalum Ng

Research Assistant

Jula Hughes

Principal InvesTIgator 

Mary Milliken

Project Manager

Christine Hughes

Research Assistant

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