In the News: Alberta Conscience Rights Bill Threatens Access to Abortion and Other Health Services

Dissent grows over Alberta conscience rights bill as MLAs vote for more consultation, Nadine Yousif, The Star Edmonton, 2019-11-18.

A controversial bill that deals with conscience rights for healthcare workers who refuse to provide care on moral or religious grounds will be moved to further consultations with stakeholders, following a lengthy and emotional debate on its merits in committee.

The NDP opposition has been vocally against the bill, but some United Conservative MLAs are now expressing concerns with the bill as written as well. Discussions around the Conscience Rights Protections Act for healthcare workers, also known as Bill 207, have been heated since Peace River United Conservative MLA Dan Williams put it forward earlier this month as a private members’ bill.

The bill passed first reading with the support of the majority of the UCP caucus, but critics have said it acts as a backdoor for social conservatives to partly restrict access to services like abortion, health care for LGBTQ people and medically assisted dying.

This legislation is an attempt by the anti-abortion movement to make abortions and other services harder to get, by allowing doctors and other healthcare workers to refuse treatment without the obligation of referring the patient to another practitioner, thus effectivement denying medical treatment for religious reasons. This would be a major victory for the religious right.

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