Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Paulette Garnett has granted Dr. Morgentaler “public interest standing” to represent women in his lawsuit against the province.
Dr. Morgentaler, 85, is trying to force the New Brunswick government to pay for abortions at his clinic in Fredericton, but it has steadfastly refused to do so.
About 700 women a year pay between $550 and $750 for abortions at the Morgentaler clinic. The cost depends on how far along they are in their pregnancies.
“There are many valid reasons why women who have had abortions at the Fredericton clinic would not or could not bring this challenge,” Judge Garnett wrote in her decision made public this week.
“Dr. Morgentaler is therefore a suitable alternative person to do so.”
New Brunswick is the only province that has a private abortion facility that is not publicly funded.
Simone Leibovitch, manager of the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic, said in an interview Friday she is pleased with the decision and hopes the provincial government will not launch further appeals.
“It’s just like delaying tactics,” she said.
“I really wish they would just let the process go through. We’ll win. The whole thing is very unconstitutional. They’re violating the Canada Health Act and women don’t have equal access to abortion in this province. They do not.”
A spokeswoman at the New Brunswick Justice Department said the ruling is being reviewed and no decision has been made on an appeal.
New Brunswick has been a thorn in his side for years, ever since he opened the Fredericton clinic in 1995.
Governments during the intervening years, apparently mindful of the strong, anti-abortion movement in the province, have refused to pay for abortions at the clinic.
Under provincial legislation, the government will pay for abortions only in a hospital setting, providing two doctors have certified that it is medically necessary.
It’s believed only one hospital in the province currently performs abortions, a procedure that must be done at no more than 12 weeks gestation by an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Peter Ryan, executive director of New Brunswick Right to Life, called on the province to stand firm against Dr. Morgentaler.
“I think it is most unlikely the people of New Brunswick will ever pay Morgentaler to kill our province’s unborn babies on demand,” he said in a statement.
“Our province needs to stand firm in this matter, and I am very hopeful it will do so. “
Dr. Morgentaler launched a lawsuit over New Brunswick’s refusal to fund his private clinic in 2003.
In arguing for standing, Dr. Morgentaler’s lawyer said he is representing the interests of women who cannot use abortion services because of restrictive provincial legislation, noting social stigma makes it unlikely any woman would come forward to challenge the law.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, JimmieMack, after an August 8, 2008 article by Chris Norris over The Canadian Press