Janis Irwin, the Alberta NDP’s critic for women and LGBTQ issues, speaks to reporters following the rejection of a private member’s bill that would have further protected health workers who invoked their conscience rights on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Janis Irwin/Twitter)

Alberta MLAs reject bill for health workers who refuse service based on moral beliefs

Bill would have meant workers could not be sued for refusing to provide services like abortions

A private member’s bill that would have given further protection to Alberta health workers who invoked their conscience rights has been rejected at the committee level.

The standing committee on private members’ bills heard from four doctors, the Trans Equality Society of Alberta and Dying with Dignity Canada before voting against the proposal.

The bill was brought forward by United Conservative government backbencher Dan William.

It would have meant that health-care providers could not be sued or sanctioned for refusing to provide services — such as abortion, assisted dying or contraception — that went against their moral beliefs.

Currently, Alberta doctors who don’t want to perform those services must refer patients to someone who will.

Concerns had been raised by the Opposition NDP that the bill could have created a back-door way to restrict access to abortion and contraception, particularly in rural areas where access to physicians and services can be limited.

A doctor and a transgender rights advocate raised similar concerns before the committee Thursday.

“Conscience rights are used by anti-abortion groups, specifically and openly, as a way to reopen this debate,” said Dr. Jillian Ratti.

Holly Tomm, president of the Trans Equality Society of Alberta, added the bill would further decrease health-care access for members of the LGBTQ community.

“If we reach out to those agencies and we get a stone wall — no other referrals, no other information — we crawl back into our closets and we start harming ourselves,” said Tomm.

There was support for the bill.

Dr. Kiely Williams suggested rural physicians could leave or quit if their beliefs were not protected.

“If we don’t allow the freedoms for people to object, my point is that we will lose it for everyone,” she said.

Janis Irwin, the NDP’s critic for women and LGBTQ issues, called the 8-2 vote against the bill a victory.

The committee did vote unanimously to send another bill amending the law on organ and tissue donation to the assembly that would allow people’s organs to be automatically recovered unless they had opted out while still alive. (CTV Edmonton, The Canadian Press)

READ MORE: Indigenous, two-spirit couple from Alberta wins Amazing Race Canada

READ MORE: For trans people, gender-swap photo filters are no mere game

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Reeve: Development needs a reminder about public spaces

Ponoka County discusses promises of public access at Meridian Beach

COVID-19: One more death reported in central zone

Number of active cases has decreased by more than 200 since last week

Sylvan Lake welcomes three new family doctors

The three doctors are practicing at the Sylvan Family Health Centre and are accepting new patients

Rimbey RCMP respond to 44 calls for service last week

The files include three assault investigations and one assault with a weapon occurrence

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors gathered along 56 St Wetaskiwin, Alta. August 4, 2020 for Indigenous Lives Matter.

Piscotty hits A’s 2nd walkoff slam this year, beats Rangers

Piscotty hits A’s 2nd walkoff slam this year, beats Rangers

McDavid gets first playoff hat trick, Oilers beat Chicago 6-3 in NHL qualifiers

McDavid gets first playoff hat trick, Oilers beat Chicago 6-3 in NHL qualifiers

Triumphant return for retooled Marlins, who beat Orioles 4-0

Triumphant return for retooled Marlins, who beat Orioles 4-0

Aho, Reimer help Hurricanes beat Rangers 4-1 for sweep

Aho, Reimer help Hurricanes beat Rangers 4-1 for sweep

Emerging young stars stand out at MLS tournament

Emerging young stars stand out at MLS tournament

Leafs solve Korpisalo, but lose Muzzin as Toronto evens series with Columbus 1-1

Leafs solve Korpisalo, but lose Muzzin as Toronto evens series with Columbus 1-1

Calgary Flames take 2-1 series lead with 6-2 win over Winnipeg Jets

Calgary Flames take 2-1 series lead with 6-2 win over Winnipeg Jets

Riley’s 3-run homer helps Fried, Braves beat Blue Jays 10-1

Riley’s 3-run homer helps Fried, Braves beat Blue Jays 10-1

Most Read