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Morgentaler’s lawsuit over New Brunswick abortion funding dropped

Henry Morgentaler, shown in 2008, launched the lawsuit in 2002 aimed at forcing the New Brunswick government to pay for abortions. The case was in limbo after he died in May, 2013, and has now been dropped.

KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

A 12-year-old lawsuit aimed at forcing the New Brunswick government to pay for abortions at clinics is being dropped, the manager of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton said Tuesday.

Simone Leibovitch said the lawyer handling the case has been instructed to discontinue the court battle, which was launched by Dr. Henry Morgentaler in 2002 but put into limbo after he died last May.

Leibovitch said Morgentaler had standing in the courts and while he had the financial means to fight the provincial government to repeal Regulation 84-20, the clinic does not.

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"In order for the law case to continue, there would be somebody who would have to expend considerable amounts of money and come forward to take that role on," Leibovitch said in an interview.

"You have to have very deep pockets to fight the government of New Brunswick."

Under Regulation 84-20 in the province's Medical Services Payment Act, abortion isn't covered by medicare in New Brunswick unless two doctors certify in writing that it is medically necessary and that it be performed by a specialist in an approved hospital.

The regulation was introduced in 1984 and has been a source of controversy since. Pro-choice groups say it restricts a woman's right to seek an abortion in the province, and in 2005, the former federal Liberal government put pressure on New Brunswick to fund private abortion clinics, but it was rebuffed.

The Fredericton clinic announced last week that it will close at the end of July after providing abortions for 20 years because it is losing money. It estimates that it lost about $100,000 over the last decade.

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