UPDATE: Bill 207 was defeated by a count of 8-2 at the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills on Thursday night.
Peace River MLA Dan Williams has made several changes to the language of his controversially proposed “conscience rights” Bill 207.
The private member’s bill, in it’s initial written form, would have allowed Alberta doctors to refuse to advise, assist, or refer patients on procedures including abortions or medically assisted death based on personal or religious beliefs. Several amendments had been tabled following further consultations with stakeholders.
“Many Albertans in my constituency and across the province that said, ‘we want that, we also want access to services, that it continues on after, just as before.'”
Williams added over a dozen amendments to the bill, including striking out the verbiage which signified that doctors or health care providers weren’t forced to refer a patient to another doctor or facility.
On top of public consultation, one United Conservative Party minister was vocal against the bill in its original form. Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer tweeted that, unless there are material changes to the bill, he would not be supporting it.
— Doug Schweitzer (@doug_schweitzer) November 16, 2019
NDP MLA Janis Irwin has also been a fierce critic of Bill 207, suggesting that Williams “doesn’t understand the barriers women face when accessing abortion and other reproductive health services, and can’t say if he’s talked with anyone from the LGBTQ2S+ community.”
Can’t name the doctors he’s consulted, doesn’t understand the barriers women face when accessing abortion and other reproductive health services, and can’t say if he’s talked with anyone from the LGBTQ2S+ community. Terrible answers, terrible bill. Kill Bill 207. #ableg pic.twitter.com/hFrqbTZ4aE
— Janis Irwin (@JanisIrwin) November 19, 2019
Williams believes Irwin is representing her constituents’ wants and beliefs but says the amendments will hopefully bridge the gap between the two sides.
“I wanted to offer an olive branch, a genuine attempt at reconciling the interests of the public with the legislation. Making sure doctors, nurses and health care providers are not pitted against patients, the way we’ve seen in other jurisdictions like in Ontario.”