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NDPers tackle abortion, leadership issues at convention

Women should have free access to the abortion pill, formally named Mifegymiso, Manitoba New Democrats unanimously declared on Saturday.

Brandon-based Manitoba NDP provincial council member Lonnie Patterson brought the successful resolution forward during the party’s convention in Winnipeg.

"Women in rural or northern Manitoba have to go to a hospital that provides the surgical service, where if the pill were available, these folks wouldn’t have to travel away from their home to access this choice," Patterson said.

"We’re not talking about whether women are having the right to have (an abortion), we’re talking about access."

Patterson drafted the resolution alongside longtime women’s health advocate and St. Johns MLA Nahanni Fontaine, who has been fighting for greater abortion pill access for years.

Fontaine has brought up the abortion pill in question period a few times, and last November put forward a resolution that Pharmacare must cover the price of the pill, which has now risen to about $350.

These efforts have yet to find traction by way of actual change, so she intends on pushing forward, newly reinforced by Manitoba New Democrats’ unanimous support.

"The abortion pill is an absolute game-changer in respect to reproductive health for women, and it’s a game-changer in respect of access; the ability to terminate a pregnancy in the privacy of your home," she said. "It’s something that I really, really believe in, and that Manitoban women, and all Canadian women, need full access to."

Health Canada approved the abortion pill in 2015 for up to seven weeks’ gestation, but it has been slow to make an appearance on the Canadian health-care scene.

Its Canadian debut was in January. However, access since that time has been limited.

There are federally and provincially imposed limitations, and while Fontaine said that she recognizes the federal impositions might be tougher for the provincial levels of government to tackle, they can still make the pills free of charge as well as draft legislation that broadens access wherever possible.

For a means of abortion that has already been available in 60 countries for up to three decades, it’s bizarre to see Manitoba dragging its feet in 2017, she said.

It’s also strange to see the provincial government fully fund surgical abortions, but not the more cost-effective abortion pill.

"If you strictly want to look at cost-savings, the abortion pill is, again, a game-changer," she said.

The provincial government’s delayed action due to studies or consultations only serves to prolong the distribution of the proven abortion pills through Manitoba, she said.

Fontaine has pledged to continue bringing up this issue in the Manitoba legislature.

While the Manitoba New Democrats are unanimous in their support for broader access to the abortion pill, it’s unlikely that everyone in Westman is in agreement.

Last year saw the Brandon University anti-abortion club Students For Life fight with university leadership in order to retain their official club status.

They were unavailable by press time on Sunday.

This was far from the only resolution brought forward during last weekend’s Manitoba New Democrats convention, which found more than 550 delegates participate.

Included in these resolutions was agreement to end tuition at post-secondary institutions, which is in keeping with what the Brandon University Students’ Union has been advocating for during recent Brandon University Board of Governors meetings.

As for the upcoming leadership race, Manitoba New Democrats failed to receive the required two-thirds majority for resolutions related to how they elect a leader, meaning the status quo delegated convention system would remain in place.

Patterson hopes to see whomever is elected as leader finally make good on the last election’s lost opportunity by lending a new face and slate of ideas to the leadership role.

» tclarke@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 20, 2017

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Women should have free access to the abortion pill, formally named Mifegymiso, Manitoba New Democrats unanimously declared on Saturday.

Brandon-based Manitoba NDP provincial council member Lonnie Patterson brought the successful resolution forward during the party’s convention in Winnipeg.

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Women should have free access to the abortion pill, formally named Mifegymiso, Manitoba New Democrats unanimously declared on Saturday.

Brandon-based Manitoba NDP provincial council member Lonnie Patterson brought the successful resolution forward during the party’s convention in Winnipeg.

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