Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If Not Now, Then When?

Today it was announced in Fredericton that the Morgentaler Clinic will be shutting its doors after 20 years. From the press release:

The Morgentaler Clinic is closing for the following reasons:
Many women are unable to pay for their abortions. As a result, the clinic revenue has never met expenses. Shortfalls were made up by Dr. Morgentaler personally.  In the past ten years the clinic has contributed over $105,400 to subsidize abortions for women unable to pay the full amount.
The 2008 flood caused damage to the clinic totalling more than $100,000.  Many downtown businesses received some compensation but the clinic was denied any because it was not owned by a resident of New Brunswick.  Had Dr. Morgentaler not paid for the required repairs to keep the clinic open, the clinic would have closed in 2008.
The clinic cannot continue to provide abortion services that are not publically funded.
As a former employee of the clinic, I can vouch for all three of these reasons. Every week I made appointments for women who didn't have any of the money to pay, or only had part of it. Of course we tried as much as possible to help direct them to funds, and we even sometimes tried payment plans, although of course this was a futile effort. I'm actually surprised the amount subsidized was not more than $105,400.

After the 2008 flood we spent hours in the basement of the clinic, trying to rescue as many patient files as possible, and using a borrowed ShopVac to frantically bail out the water. The city was compensating businesses affected by the flood; I was there when the government employee charged with inspecting the damage pulled up to our building, and, upon learning what kind of business it was, got back into his car and drove away without conducting the inspection. 

A clinic like this could never continue unfunded in a province like New Brunswick, and anyone who believed it could was dreaming. I think the provincial government may feel a sense of relief upon hearing the news of the clinic closing, but what they don't recognize is that this will only hurt the province - socially and economically - in the long term. 

The silver lining is that the clinic's closure may be the impetus needed to finally push the province into action. We must strike when the iron is hot; it is time for the people of New Brunswick to organize. In the wake of this news I would love to see two things:

1. Some kind of referral/support network for providing folks seeking abortion with the immediate care they need, just like in the bad old days when abortion was illegal. There needs to be a network where people can go and find out: sympathetic referral doctors; doctors who will provide medical abortions (when RU486 becomes available); funds to travel out of province for abortions; and people who can help with transportation and accommodations in that regard. It is important that people who need abortions continue to be able to access them.

2. Grassroots, hardcore protest action. Not standing outside the clinic with candles, because why would any legislator give a shit? I mean identifying specific targets and taking actual, stand-up-and-take-notice action. Set up a tent on the lawn of the Legislature and start providing abortions in it. Hang bloody coat hangers on the mailboxes of anti-choice MLAs. Abortion caravan that shit, chain yourselves to seats in the Legislature. They won't listen to reason, so get radical. Lives are at stake.

I hope that New Brunswick finds the energy and the spirit to fight back. If not now, then when?