Controversial conscience rights bill will die on order paper

Second session of 30th legislature starts on Feb. 25

CBC News

Michelle Bellefontaine

A controversial private member’s bill on conscience rights for medical providers will be dropped now that the government intends to prorogue the first session of the 30th legislature. 

Government House Leader Jason Nixon announced on Wednesday that the second session will start Feb. 25 with a speech from the throne. . . [Full text]

Debate over conscience rights hasn’t cooled off in Alberta

Fifty Covenant Health physicians write open letter against Bill 207

Grandin Media

Kyle Greenham

A private member’s bill to protect the conscience rights of health professionals in Alberta is still fighting for survival.

United Conservative Party MLA Dan Williams plans to advocate for Bill 207, the Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act, well into the new year. Williams’ bill would ensure health practitioners — and organizations — can conscientiously decline a procedure without worry that they would be penalized or, at worst, lose their job. . .[Full text]

Alberta private member’s bill to protect doctors’ conscience rights rejected by committee

The Globe and Mail

James Keller

An Alberta private member’s bill that would have protected doctors’ rights to refuse to perform procedures or refer patients for moral reasons has been voted down at committee.

The vote means the bill, which prompted allegations that the United Conservative Party government was attempting to reopen debates about abortion and assisted dying, is likely dead, with several UCP members voting against it. Critics of the bill argued it would be unconstitutional and accused Premier Jason Kenney of breaking an election promise that abortion would not be on the agenda if his party formed the government. . . [Full text]

Controversial conscience rights bill for Alberta physicians voted down

‘This is a very political thing and a very cynical thing and it is not about physicians’

CBC News

Wallis Snowdon

A controversial private member’s bill that called for more protection for Alberta health workers who invoke conscience rights was rejected Thursday by an all-party committee of the legislature. 

The Conscience Rights Act for Healthcare Workers, or Bill 207  — introduced by Peace River MLA and UCP (United Conservative Party) backbencher Dan Williams — would have meant doctors could not be sued or sanctioned for refusing to provide a service that goes against their moral beliefs. 

Some doctors and patient advocates said the bill would limit access to medical services such as contraception, abortion and assisted dying. . .[Full text]

UCP MLA denies conscience rights bill limits health care access

Backbench MLA faces continued questions about potential implications of Bill 207

CBC News

Michelle Bellefontaine

The Alberta UCP MLA behind a controversial bill on conscience rights for health care providers says the bill isn’t intended to cut access to services like abortion and medical assistance in dying as critics have charged.

“I feel there is some misinformation about what the bill is trying to do and what it does do,” Peace River MLA Dan Williams told reporters Friday.   

“I want to be absolutely clear. This bill in no way categorically limits access to any services. That was not my intent, that is not what the bill does.” . . . [Full text]

MLAs can vote their conscience on health providers conscience rights bill, premier says

 Edmonton Journal

 Janet French

 The premier won’t whip United Conservative Party MLA votes on a private members’ bill that could leave Alberta women without legal recourse if an objecting doctor refuses to refer her to a colleague for an abortion or contraception.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said at a Friday press conference his government will “always have free votes” on bills introduced to the legislature by individual MLAs, as compared to government bills. . . [Full text]

Health minister uncertain about constitutionality of doctors’ conscience rights bill

Calgary Herald

Bill Kaufman

A controversial doctors’ conscience-rights bill won’t impede services for abortion, transgendered people and those seeking medically assisted death, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Wednesday.

But the minister admitted he isn’t entirely familiar with some aspects of private member’s Bill 207, which passed first reading in the legislature last week.

Those comments came the same day the Alberta Medical Association expressed opposition to the bill, calling it “unnecessary” while saying it threatens to “limit access to patient services.” . . . [Full text]

Conscience rights bill ‘unnecessary,’ says head of Alberta Medical Association

Edmonton Journal

Anna Junker

The head of the Alberta Medical Association says a private member’s bill introduced last week that would protect the conscience rights of medical professionals is “unnecessary and inappropriate,” while the bill’s sponsor and the province’s health minister doubled down that access to health care wouldn’t be affected.

Dr. Christine Molnar, president of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), wrote to Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday about her concerns on Bill 207. Also included in the letter were Premier Jason Kenney and Peace River MLA Dan Williams, who introduced the bill on Nov. 7. . . [Full text]

Jason Kenney Still Silent On Alberta’s Controversial ‘Conscience Rights’ Bill

Critics fear the bill will restrict access to abortion and LGBTQ health care.

Huffington Post

Melanie Woods

As doctors and medical associations speak out against Alberta’s controversial conscience rights bill, which would allow doctors to refuse referrals for services they’re morally or religiously opposed to, such as abortion or assisted dying, the province’s premier remains silent. 

The private member’s bill introduced by United Conservative Party (UCP) MLA Dan Williams passed first reading last week, with unanimous support from the party’s MLAs in attendance for the vote. It will now move to a second reading, which involves debate in the Alberta legislature. . . [Full text]