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Bill on doctors conscience rights moves forward

Last Updated Nov 8, 2019 at 8:02 am MST

EDMONTON (CityNews) – A new bill could see doctors given the right to refuse service if it goes against their moral or religious beliefs.

Many are against this bill saying it’s a backdoor to restricting women’s rights.

Currently, if physicians refuse services such as abortions, contraception and medically assisted deaths must make a good faith referral.

That could change thanks to a private member’s bill introduced by UCP MLA Dan Williams.

Although the UCP campaigned on steering clear on social issues, the caucus voted Thursday to move the bill forward.

“I think it represents a broken promise and an attempt to restrict the rights of women in this province,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley.

READ MORE: Canadian women stonewalled when it comes to reproductive rights

Many worry the bill will have an impact on rural residents who already have a difficult time accessing services.

“There might not be a single doctor in a small town that is willing to refer. What is a person to do when they live in these small towns?” said Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson, a Doula that supports women seeking abortions.

One political scientist believes if the bill goes any further it will only invigorate critics who say the UCP has a hidden social-political agenda.

“It will lead to suspicion,” said Chaledean Mensah from Grant McEwan University. “Mr. Kenney, if he’s very smart will make sure this private member’s bill doesn’t proceed any further.”

WATCH: Controversial bill moves forward 

In a statement to CityNews, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta says “Conscience rights are a basic principle for physicians. In our experience, this standard has proven effective in balancing physicians’ conscience rights with the duty to provide access to healthcare services.”

The private member’s bill will still need to pass second and third reading before it’s proclaimed law.