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Alberta Premier Rachel NotleyDon Voaklander, CC

EDMONTON, Alberta, May 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Alberta’s New Democrat government ramped up its abortion agenda this week with Health Minister Sandra Hoffman declaring she’s looking to expand abortion access outside the province’s two main cities. The minister is also continuing to slam the opposition United Conservative Party (UCP) for walking out of a vote on her bill banning pro-life witness outside Alberta’s two abortion centers.

Meanwhile, the UCP and party leader Jason Kenney head into a founding policy convention this weekend with media scrutiny on a proposed resolution that is seen as a starting point to delisting abortion from Alberta’s provincial health care insurance plan.

Hoffman told the Calgary Herald Wednesday she’s in discussions with Alberta Health Services to have surgical abortions done in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Red Deer.

Currently, abortions in Alberta are committed at the Kensington Clinic in Calgary and the Women’s Health Options in Edmonton, as well as at Calgary’s Peter Lougheed Hospital.

“We want to ensure that where there are physicians who are willing to work in this space and where there are patients who need these services, that we find ways to provide them closer to home,” said Hoffman.

“We’ve communicated very clearly to the leadership at AHS that we believe it’s important for these services to be provided in regional hospitals as well.”

The minister did not say how much progress she had made in these talks, the Herald reported.

Hoffman and the NDP then excoriated the UCP Thursday after 10 of the party’s MLAs walked out of second reading vote on Bill 9, which bans all pro-life witness within 50 meters of the province’s two abortion centers.

The bill passed 41 to one, with the NDP caucus, three Alberta Party members, PC Richard Starke, and Liberal David Swann voting for it.

Independent Conservative Derek Fildebrandt cast the only “nay” vote after his earlier amendment to broaden the bill was defeated. The UCP MLAs were not present for that, either.

Kenney, who is pro-life but has said his party won’t legislate on abortion, was not in the legislature, according to the Toronto Star.

When the NDP introduced Bill 9 in April, Kenney accused them of wedge politics and using “divisive social issues” to distract from their dismal economic record, and pointed out that injunctions restricting pro-life activity are in place at both abortion centers.

He said he would abstain from voting on the bill, and his caucus would likely follow his lead.

Campaign Life Coalition has criticized Kenney and the UCP for not vigorously opposing Bill 9, which they say is harmful to women and a draconian attack on freedom of speech.

Premier Rachel Notley derided the UPC in comments to reporters Thursday for “ducking, diving, hiding from what your real agenda is,” and showing “a tremendous level of political cowardice,” reported the Toronto Star.

And in her speech on Bill 9, Hoffman accused the UCP of ignoring Alberta women, who “don’t deserve an opposition that courts the support of groups that would defund their health care and their rights.”

That’s an allusion to the policy resolution that may or may not make it to the floor during the UCP policy convention.

Put forward by the pro-life Wilberforce Project, the resolution asks the party to “review what procedures are defined as ‘medically necessary’ and remove non-compliant procedures from provincial insurance coverage.”

Kenney commented in the lead-up to the convention that the UCP is an open party.

“When you open up the process to something this big, which attracts 1,300 resolutions and you consult 120,000 people, you’re going to get views on a range of issues and some of them will be a little contentious,” he said, as quoted in Global News.

“But my experience is that when you involve large numbers of people, they tend to support resolutions which reflect the mainstream. I think that’s what we’ll end up with.”

This weekend’s UCP policy convention in Red Deer has been billed by one pundit as possibly the “biggest political convention” in Alberta’s history, with a reputed 2,400 people expected to attend.

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