Six months ago I moved away from New Brunswick, the province that had been my home for thirteen years. I did so with a great deal of relief. Sometimes it is easy to look back with rose -coloured glasses, and I often wonder if it was really such a backwards place, or if I had just exaggerated the conservative, elitist, whiteness of it because I was so unhappy there.
And then, I see something like this.
This is a provincial government page on getting tested for chlamydia (which is absolutely an EPIDEMIC right now, in case you are wondering. Please get tested if you can!). Scroll down to the part about where you should get tested if you are 19 years old or younger and don’t have a health care provider. Now compare that to where it says you can go if you are 20 to 29 and don’t have a health care provider. See the difference?
In New Brunswick, you have to be 19 years old OR YOUNGER to access sexual health centres. Let that sink in for a second.
New Brunswick is a province with a dangerous shortage of family doctors. I would hazard a guess that most people who live in NB don’t have a health care provider. When I lived in Fredericton, the capital city, a government and university town with a population of about 60,000, I had no access to regular sexual health care. As a university student I went to the student health centre. The age limit for the sexual health centres then was 24, so I could go there once I graduated. But when I turned 24, there was nowhere – literally nowhere – I could go to get a pap test. And now that age is 19.
Reproductive health care is a constant battle in New Brunswick. Part of the problem is population decline and the ridiculous solutions politicians try to come up with to fix it: instead of making the province a more inviting place to live and work (by improving job prospects, encouraging immigration, etc.), they think the problem can be solved by making more babies. Seriously. So they crack down on the already shoddy abortion access, refuse to fund any kind of efforts that would lower the teen pregnancy rate, and basically fail, again and again, to see the difference between making people want to stay and giving them no options to get out.
There are about a million things about this new age limit that make me want to scream, but the most frustrating thing is that it is actually discrimination, and there is a Charter challenge to be had here – but the people who are most likely to be negatively effected by the change are the same people with the fewest resources, time, energy and money to take it on. I hope that there is a lot of organizing around this, that the amazing activist community in New Brunswick does not just let this one slide under the radar. But mostly I am just absolutely flabbergasted that a government could sink this low.
Coming on top of the news about the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in the USA, this just drives home how critical access to preventative care is to sexual and reproductive health. This should be an unquestionable right – and yet, Fredericton lost its only Planned Parenthood just a few years ago, thanks to lack of funds and lack of available doctors. No one is more suprised than I that it could become this bad this quickly. We all need to stand up, fight and protect the healthcare we have now before we lose it altogether.