I think one of the upcoming election issues has now evolved from the recent announcement by the Fredericton Morgentaler clinic that it will close in July. There has been plenty of media coverage, vociferous chatter on Twitter, petitions, and an upcoming rally. The issue may fade slightly between now and the election on September 22, but Iâ€™m guessing the ballot box will reflect its impact. It has people thinking about their votes now. Or at least Iâ€™m hoping so: itâ€™s high time New Brunswick elect more women MLAs or at least men who believe in equality and choice, and hereâ€™s the important thing, ready to do something about it.
If I was a sitting MLA or running for office I would not hesitate to commit to repeal the section of Regulation 84.20 that defines abortion as a non-entitled health service. (Scroll to near the bottom.) The regulation outlines that for a woman to access an abortion, she needs written consent of two doctors. Then, and only then, will the province cover it. (Every other province except PEI covers it.) This is draconian and unnecessary. I firmly believe in a womanâ€™s choice; it seems paternalistic that two doctors should decide. Perhaps if we had more women MLAs this ridiculous restriction would be repealed. Women have never been represented with a majority of MLAs so it seems fair to say that the law that governs their access to abortion has been decided by men.
So to pick up on my previous post on International Womenâ€™s Day, how are NB political parties doing with their nomination of women candidates? Itâ€™s time to check back in. The number, including results from nominating conventions held this weekend by the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties, are not much better than last time, more than a month ago. Again, Iâ€™ve ranked them by total number, then by percentage.
Progressive Conservative 6/22 27%
Green Party 3/5 60%
Liberal Party 2/21 10%
NDP 1/4 25%
Peopleâ€™s Alliance 1/6 16%
The numbers, obviously, have not improved a great deal, and the Greens, NDP, and Peopleâ€™s Alliance have nominated too few to see if there is any clear trend. The PCs and Liberals, though, are approaching half of their slates, so those numbers likely do represent a concrete trend. And despite all parties talking the talk about running and electing more women candidates, it looks like their efforts to recruit and engage are failing.
Itâ€™s difficult to look more deeply into and analyze the numbers because only 2 parties â€” the Greens and Liberals â€” have published the names of candidates who are contesting ridings on their party websites. These numbers donâ€™t hold much promise for improvement.
The Liberals have names of contestants for 26 other ridings. Of those, 17 are contested completely by men and only 4 are currently contested solely by women. The Green Party has 7 ridings where there are official contestants listed. None, as far as I can tell, are women. Kudos, at least, to those parties for the information. The bottom line is this: if the legislature continues to be dominated by men, then the likelihood of changes to abortion access will likely not improve. The timing of the news of the clinicâ€™s closure does provide us with an opportunity to renew efforts.
So what should New Brunswickers do?
Speak to your MLAs, Hereâ€™s the list with contact information.
Ask candidates what their position is and what their commitment is when then knock on your door.
Sign the petition.
Attend the rally and wear red (the colour chosen by organizers as the protest colour): this coming Thursday, April 17 at 12:30 at the New Brunswick legislature.
Encourage women to get involved in politics by running in the upcoming election!
Vote September 22 with this issue in mind.