Patrick Craine

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Going into election, Alberta Premier opposes right of doctors to refuse abortions

Patrick Craine

CALGARY, Alberta, April 5, 2012 ( – Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she is “frightened” by her political rival’s support for conscience rights, arguing that doctors should be forced to commit abortions and prescribe contraception even if it goes against their beliefs.

Redford, leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, jumped on the wedge issue Wednesday as polls consistently show that she trails Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party in the run-up to the province’s April 23 election.

Smith told the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association in August 2011 that her party “will ensure conscience rights for marriage commissioners and health professionals.” A Wildrose policy passed in 2011 says the party believes the government should “implement legislation protecting the ‘conscience rights’ of health-care professionals.”

But according to Redford, doctors should be required to commit abortions and prescribe contraception to make sure that “all of the unique families in this province have the opportunity to know that when they’re accessing services, they can trust those services can be provided.”

“When people take on professional responsibilities, I expect them to be able to meet those professional responsibilities,” she said, adding that it’s a “critical discussion point in the election.”

Redford framed her stance against conscience rights by arguing for “diversity.”

“I certainly respect people’s personal beliefs, but I believe in a province where we have to treat individuals with dignity and respect. We have to live in a community where we respect diversity and we understand that everyone feels safe and included,” she said.

Redford’s stance has been slammed by a former member of the PC caucus, Julius Yankowsky, who represented the Edmonton Beverly-Clareview riding from 1993-2004 under Premier Ralph Klein.

If the Premier really believes in respecting diversity, she would allow for diverse moral opinions, said Yankowsky, who now coordinates Campaign Life Coalition Alberta.

“But no. Look at what’s happening in the States with Obama. No, Christians and especially Catholics are totally under attack,” he said. “And they are going to do whatever they need to to try and make it very, very difficult for us.”

Yankowsky had put a bill forward in the late 1990s to secure conscience rights but it ultimately died on the order paper.

Despite Smith’s previous stance, media outlets are reporting that on Wednesday the Wildrose leader avoided direct questions about her views on whether a marriage commissioner could refuse to conduct a same-sex “marriage” or a doctor could refuse to commit an abortion.

Instead she said her party hopes to set up a Human Rights Division in the provincial court to handle complaints that arise in such scenarios. The division would replace the existing Alberta Human Rights Commission.

“We want to set up a separate division of the provincial court to deal with these exact kind of complaints, so that real courts and real lawyers with real rules of evidence would be able to decide them,” she said.

“I support the charter of rights and freedoms, and when you look at it there is freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of association – all of these freedoms under our charter need to be balanced in society against competing rights and freedoms,” she added, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Wildrose has continued to gain steam as the election cycle continues, marking a serious threat to the Tories’ 41-year reign.

A Leger Marketing survey released Thursday by the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal put Wildrose at 41% support over the PCs’ 34%. Just last week, Leger had the two parties in a dead heat.

A poll released Tuesday by ThinkHQ Public Affairs put Wildrose in clear sights of a majority government, with 43% support compared to the PCs’ 30%. did not hear back from Premier Redford by press time.

Contact Information:

Premier Alison Redford
Office of the Premier
Room 307, Legislature Building
10800-97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B7
Phone: 780-427-2251
E-mail: Use this form.

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