An Alberta private member’s bill supporting conscience rights for healthcare workers and religious organizations that respect life could be axed as early as tomorrow unless concerned Albertans take immediate action.
“The pro-death lobby has done a massive lobbying job against Bill 207, yet MLAs have said few people have sent them messages supporting the bill,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention.
“So we need to tell them we support the bill,” he said.
Bill 207, or Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act, reasserts the Charter rights of healthcare professionals to refuse to advise, assist, perform or refer for any “medical procedures” — such as abortions, contraception and euthanasia — they object to for personal or religious beliefs. It also extends conscience rights protections to religious institutions.
The bill sailed through first reading when United Conservative Party (UCP) MLA Dan Williams introduced it November 7, but it has since sparked protests and dire warnings from LGBT activists, abortion advocates, and the opposition NDP that it will impede access to abortion, euthanasia and sex-reassignment surgery.
The Standing Committee on Private Members Bills may now decide after its meeting Thursday afternoon not to refer the bill to the legislature for second reading. Or the committee could defer the decision to a meeting early next week, as the deadline to report back to the legislature is Wednesday, according to an official of the committee clerk’s office.
Campaign Life Coalition and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians and Societies are among groups joining the EPC to mobilize supporters in Alberta to contact their MLAs as soon as possible to express support for the bill.
The standing committee held a lengthy debate Monday after which members agreed to invite certain witnesses to testify at Thursday’s meeting. The identity of those invited stakeholders had not been publicly released at press time.
Williams was present at Monday’s meeting to defend his legislation and to present “a number of friendly amendments from a number of health-care colleges” and “a host of material changes” so that “we can protect freedom of conscience for these objectors and yes, also making sure that we have access to services and the colleges continue on,” CBC reported.
The rookie MLA also produced a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) statement approving his proposed amendments.
“The new wording is in greater alignment with our Standard of Practice. Based on the new wording, Bill 207 would not change how CPSA functions as a regulator,” the CPSA statement said.
“My intention with offering these amendments is a genuine olive branch, a genuine attempt to say ‘the purpose of this bill is to protect conscience rights, and in no way has any desire to limit access,’” said Williams, as reported in the Edmonton Journal.
However, committee chair UCP MLA Mike Ellis pointed out that no amendments are allowed at this stage and that members must deal with the bill as tabled.
Meanwhile, UCP Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer stated he’ll vote against the bill unless it’s significantly altered, as has Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie, while NDP opposition leader Rachel Notley described the bill as “extremist,” CBC reported.
Moreover, “the pro-death lobby has got as of yesterday over 21,000 signatures against the bill,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews. “They’re saying this bill will deny medical services.”
Bill 207 does not define what medical procedures are protected, “it’s just protecting conscience rights in general, which means anyone who has issues with a certain type of medical treatment would not have to be involved in that. It does not deny medical treatment,” Schadenberg said.