On Monday, Bangor station WLBZ featured a segment called “The Difficult Journey” – a news story about the increased numbers of Canadian women coming to Maine for their abortions. The segment featured Ruth Lockhart, Executive Director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center. The Mabel Wadsworth Center has seen the largest influx of patients, most of whom are traveling from New Brunswick. The increase in patients is due to a couple of issues. New Brunswick’s sole abortion clinic, the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, closed its doors at the end of July 2014. Limited abortion services are available at two hospitals in the province, but because of the strict abortion regulations the province enforces, a person must have prior written permission from two doctors stating that the abortion is “medically necessary” before even scheduling an appointment at one of the hospitals. And, even if a woman is able to get written permission from two different doctors, the hospital waiting lists are excessively long. Because the two hospitals in New Brunswick only perform abortions up to 12 weeks, the extended wait time leaves many women unable to access abortion. Women who are able to get into the hospital to have their procedures end up paying exorbitant hospital fees on top of the cost of the procedure.
In New Brunswick, people seeking to terminate their pregnancies are left with few options. Many of them end up traveling to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, or Maine to obtain their abortions. In her interview with WLBZ, Lockhart stated that Mabel's used to see one patient a week from New Brunswick, but those numbers have increased dramatically since the Morgentaler Clinic closure. Now, approximately half of the patients Mabel's sees per week are from New Brunswick. Lockhart welcomes the Canadian women and affirms that Mabel Wadsworth has the ability to accommodate their needs, but she worries about the women who can’t afford to make the trip: “I’m worried that they’ll try to self-abort.” In October, the CBC published a detailed news article about the clinic closure and the resulting spike in New Brunswick clients traveling to Maine for their abortions. You can read that story here.