Reproductive justice

The issue

CCLA is grateful for the support and pro bono contribution of our excellent litigation team and their firm: Andrew Bernstein, Gillian Dingle and Emily Sherkey (Torys LLP). CCLA is also grateful to our outstanding advisor Prof. Kerri Froc (UNB Law).

We have launched a lawsuit against the province of New Brunswick over a regulation that restricts women’s access to abortion unless done in approved hospitals, even though this restriction is not medically necessary or justified. The New Brunswick law has creates a serious issue for New Brunswick women, girls and trans people who need access to abortion, a basic form of health care.  

As of January 2021, there are only three approved hospitals in the entire province that perform surgical abortions – one in the small city of Bathurst, NB, that only accepts patients from the Bathurst area, and two in Moncton, a city of 70,000 people. “With those three hospitals in two cities, 90% of New Brunswickers do not have adequate access to abortion services in their community”, explains Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, CCLA’s Equality Director.  

The hospitals also limit when they will provide abortions. Coupled with wait times, quotas, and travel requirements, this raises very grave access issues for women, girls and trans individuals across the province – in particular those who may be marginalized, dealing with poverty, or domestic violence.  Their rights to liberty, security, privacy and equality must be protected.  

The New Brunswick regulation that restricts access to abortion violates the Canada Health Act and infringes fundamental rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

CCLA has been advocating for reproductive justice for decades, including an intervention alongside Dr. Henry Morgentaler in 1975 – more than a decade before the eventual landmark pro-choice decision of the Supreme Court in 1988.

Our recent work

2020-2021

On October 14, 2020 we sent a letter to New Brunswick Premier Higgs and Health Minister Dorothy Shepherd demanding that New Brunswick amend the regulation that restricts access to abortion. We indicated our hope that they would do this willingly, as the regulation is unconstitutional and negatively impacts women’s healthcare in New Brunswick. We told them that if they did not heed our warning, we would commence a lawsuit that would force them to amend it. 

The Government of New Brunswick did not accede to CCLA’s demand, and has not repealed the problematic part of the regulation. On October 29, 2020, we issued formal notice to the office of New Brunswick’s Attorney General, letting them know that we were preparing to commence a lawsuit against the province, and would be asking the court to declare the relevant part of the regulation unconstitutional. We also reminded them of the urgency of providing for access to abortion for women, girls and trans individuals in New Brunswick, and asked them to waive the two-month notice period. 

CCLA, along with many other local and community women’s groups and advocates for reproductive justice in New Brunswick, have demanded that the government fix the problem of lack of access to abortion in the province. They did not. CCLA told NB to do the right thing or we will see them in court. 

CCLA will continue to fight relentlessly for the right of women, girls and trans individuals who need abortions, a basic form of healthcare.

UPDATES

January 6, 2021 – The Canadian Civil Liberties Association launched a lawsuit against the province of New Brunswick over a regulation that restricts women’s access to abortion. The Statement of Claim that was submitted to the court (not yet issued) shows that the regulation violates the Canada Health Act and the rights to liberty, security, privacy and equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.