Controversial private member’s bill passes first reading in the Alberta legislature
CALGARY – The UCP government calls it a move to protect the Charter rights of medical professionals, but critics say it could restrict the ability for Albertans to access certain health procedures.
In a vote of 36 to 15, Bill 207, also known as the Conscience Rights Protection Act, aimed at reasserting the Charter-protected freedom of conscience and religion for health providers, passed first reading in the legislature Thursday afternoon.
The private member’s bill was introduced by UCP MLA Dan Williams who says the bill only affirms Charter rights and will not have any impact on access to health care.
While the bill itself doesn’t specify any medical services, critics are worried if it passes, it will target people in the LGBTQ community and people seeking abortion or medical assistance in dying.
NDP leader Rachel Notley says the bill is a back door to limit medical services and will allow health care providers to refuse treatment.
"This is something that the premier needs to take responsibility for and so I'm very troubled and I will certainly be speaking against it. But I think it represents a broken promise and an attempt to restrict the rights of women in this province."
Health Minister Tyler Shandro notes that laws are in place already to protect all Albertans from discrimination and doesn’t believe the bill would limit access to patients.
"I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think it’s very clear that our government is not reopening this debate abortion," he said. "I’m the health minister, so my job is to make sure all patients have access to all legal health services in Alberta."
Premier Jason Kenney, who said his government would not legislate on abortion, was not present during the vote.
A date for the second reading of the private member’s bill has yet to be determined.