Alberta debates conscience rights protection bill 207

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On November 7, the Alberta Legislature had first reading on Conscience Rights (Health care Providers) Protection Act, Bill 207, a private members bill that is sponsored by Member of the Legislative Assembly Dan Williams.

Bill 207 then passed its first vote along party lines with 36 United Conservative Party members voting in favour of the bill while all15 New Democratic Party opposition members voting against the bill.

Bill 207 seeks to protect the conscience rights for health care providers and organizations. The bill states:

Conscience-based objection to provision of health care service

If a health care provider or religious health care organization determines that their conscientious beliefs would be infringed by providing a specific health care service to an individual, the health care provider or religious health care organization is not required to provide that health care service to the individual.

The bill also protects health care providers from possible penalties being imposed on them by regulatory bodies.

In a written statement released after the vote, Williams said, “Health care providers should never have to choose between their most deeply held beliefs and their job.”

An article written by Shaughn Butts for postmedia news quoted Williams saying that Bill 207 protects health care providers but it does not limit access to legal healthcare services. Butts reported:

“Let me be clear, this bill not only protects freedom of conscience, but it also in no way limits access to health care services in the province”

Butts reported that the bill amends the Alberta Human Rights Act to protect conscientious beliefs as a basis for protection from discrimination or refusal for employment.

The bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.