By June Patterson
On July 9, about 100 people gathered in front of the New Brunswick Legislature for a demonstration in solidarity with women and LGBT people victimised by the recent repeal of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court and the wave of transphobic and homophobic legislation sweeping many American states.
The rally was organised by Jenna Lyn Albert, former New Brunswick poet-laureate and reproductive rights activist, in cooperation with a range of community organizations including Reproductive Justice New Brunswick, NB Tenants Coalition, Fredericton Gender Minorities, and Unifor, among others.
Speakers included Women’s Advocate for Unifor Local 4504 Nicole Lyons-MacFarlane, award-winning local musician Indigo Poirier, NB Tenants Coalition activist Angus Fletcher, and Fierté Fredericton Pride board member Amelia Thorpe.
Speakers emphasised the points of unity in the struggles for abortion rights and for gender-affirming healthcare, and urged attendees, to oppose those on the political right that seek to divide and weaken the movement for bodily autonomy and basic civil rights, both at home and south of the border.
Poirier drew enthusiastic applause for her rejection of reactionary and liberal attempts to pit the struggle for transgender rights against the wider feminist movement and the hard-fought gains they have secured over the decades.
Although the wave of reactionary anti-woman and anti-2sLGBTiQ court rulings and legislation in the United States was the catalyst for this demonstration, much attention was paid to the state of reproductive and 2sLGBTiQ healthcare in New Brunswick, which has more restrictions on access to abortion than any other jurisdiction in Canada.
Regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act prohibits medicare funding for abortions performed outside of hospital settings. This needless restriction on a woman’s right to choose inspired the #Axe8420 campaign that continues to this day.
Only two hospitals in the province provide abortions, Moncton and Bathurst, both located in the province’s east. There is no access to publicly-provided abortions in New Brunswick’s largest city (Saint John) or the provincial capital, Fredericton.
According to Jenna-Lynn Albert, due to internal hospital policy, New Brunswick has a de-facto 18-week abortion ban. These restrictions force those who cannot travel or are too far along in their pregnancies to seek care at non-hospital clinics (one of which remains open at severely reduced capacity: Clinic 554 in Fredericton) at immense cost, or to go out-of-province.
The New Brunswick government has knowingly operated in contravention of the Canada Health Act for decades, and the current Tory government of the openly “pro-life” Blaine Higgs has turned down desperately needed federal healthcare funding that would have required him to repeal the illegal Regulation 84-20.
New Brunswick’s poor access to reproductive healthcare has been condemned by the New Brunswick Medical Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and even the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner.
Members and friends of the Communist Party of Canada were in attendance to show their solidarity with women and 2sLGBTiQ people standing up for their rights and lives across North America.
[PHOTO: JENNA-LYNN ALBERT FROM RALLY FACEBOOK EVENT]
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