Bill that could deny Albertans access to abortion, birth control under fire

Nov 12 2019, 2:41 pm

A new bill proposed in legislature last week is facing criticism for allowing healthcare providers to deny access to services based on their own personal beliefs.

The bill dredges up the age-old abortion debate in Alberta and allows healthcare providers to deny patients access to abortion, contraception, or medically assisted death based on their personal beliefs, including religious beliefs, moral and ethical values, and cultural traditions.

Bill 207: Conscience Rights Protection Act was proposed by UCP MLA for Peace River Dan Williams on November 7, 2019, and passed the first reading.

The bill will also exempt doctors from the responsibility of having to refer patients to other providers in the event they were denied a service without facing repercussion.

The proposed legislation would also forbid Alberta’s healthcare regulators from imposing rules that would require clinicians to “make statements to any person or body that would infringe the healthcare provider’s conscientious beliefs.”

Bill 207 would also protect the providers from facing punitive action from health regulators in the province for denying services.

The bill has sparked outrage online from activists, advocates sharing how multiple groups of people could be impacted by the bill.

On Tuesday, an advocacy group called Dying With Dignity Canada released a statement on the new bill and the potential impacts on individuals requesting medical assistance in dying.

“Bill 207 represents a grave threat to end-of-life rights in Alberta, and it must be stopped,” said Bradley Peter, a Dying with Dignity Canada board member and co-chair of the charity’s Edmonton chapter.

“People who request MAID are some of the most vulnerable, physically compromised patients in our public health care system. To deny them even the most basic information about MAID and a referral to a willing provider is akin to patient abandonment.”

According to the statement, more than a dozen Alberta hospitals, including all Covenant Health sites, currently prohibit MAID on their premises. As a result, since 2016, more than 100 people in the province have had to transfer out of non-participating facilities in order to access their constitutionally protected right to MAID.

The bill will be referred to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills.

The Private Members’ bill still doesn’t have government backing.