The province of Alberta is looking at expanding access to abortion services, which could include Grande Prairie. Currently, elective abortion services are only offered in Edmonton or Calgary, but Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says there have been discussions about including more cities.
Hoffman acknowledges it can be difficult for women to take time off especially for something so personal. She says they have already taken some steps to make it easier for women.
“When Mifegymiso, the early term medication, was approved last year and when our province made the decision to make it funded and accessible. That was number one at getting rid of some of the barriers.”
The pill is available free of charge but the recipient is required to see a Nurse Practitioner and receive an ultrasound to assess the stage of pregnancy. When it comes to elective abortion services Hoffman says there are a number of places that could be considered.
“Regional hospitals like Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat I know are serving are serving broad communities and they’re hubs in their regions.”
Hoffman says she is aware of a health care provider who would like to offer abortion services to women in the region, but wouldn’t say who is interested. She adds that by showing support for these healthcare workers she hopes this will make expanding access easier, and encourages more doctors in smaller communities to reach out to the ministry or AHS to express their interest.
The issue of abortion access has also been raised as part of the debate over the so-called “Bubble Zone Bill”. Bill 9 would bring in a safe space around healthcare facilities that provide abortion services.
The safe zone would also include the homes of doctors and nurses working in these clinics. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the buffer for the home is even bigger than for facilities.
“This is based on legislation that has been in play in British Columbia for a significant period of time. They found in some communities that neighbours were being targeted to shame physicians out of doing this work.”
There is no timeline on the potential expanded abortion access, but Bill 9 has had its second reading in the legislature. During debate on the issue all of the United Conservative Party MLAs left the chamber. Hoffman says it’s disappointing they were only willing to discuss the issue at their convention.
“They seem to be fine discussing these behind closed doors but not in public where they have the opportunity to actually influence decisions for this province.”
At their weekend convention in Red Deer, no specific policies were made around abortion. There was another motion passed meant to “protect” children by requiring parental consent on an “invasive medical procedures.”
There is still more debate to be had in the house before Bill 9 is passed.