SASKATCHEWAN, February 9, 2011 ( – In revised guidelines relating to “unplanned pregnancy,” the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons requires that pro-life doctors refer women contemplating abortion to another physician who will be available for abortion referrals.

The preamble, a revision to the 1991 guidelines, states: “Any physician who is unable to be involved in the further care and management of any patient when termination of the pregnancy might be contemplated should inform the patient and make an expeditious referral to another available physician.”

“We didn’t change the actual policy,” said the college’s deputy registrar Dr. Karen Shaw. “It just made it clearer that people can state up-front that they have difficulty with this and make a referral, or they can assist the patient through all the steps they’re comfortable with, until the point where they are more uncomfortable or the patient understands they’re not willing to do the last step – which is to refer to someone they know will perform the abortion – but they must provide enough information.”

Mary Ellen Douglas, National Coordinator for Campaign Life Coalition, told that she believed the college is putting pressure on doctors to make sure that they refer for abortion.

“It’s a little bit of a push,” said Douglas, “to expect the doctor to actually make that referral which they have no right to force them to do.”

A physician in Saskatoon told Campaign Life Coalition that it is important to remember that they are “guidelines,” not “rules,” saying that a physician “should,” not “must,” make referrals for women contemplating abortion.  Guidelines, he said, do not indicate that there is a reprimand for not referring for abortions.  Because it’s a moral issue, he does not expect that physicians will be forced to do it or be reprimanded for not doing it.

The guidelines, however, also require that doctors inform prospective abortion clients of their options: carrying the pregnancy to term, caring for the baby or looking into adoption, and, finally, if abortion is the woman’s decision, informing her of the risks.

Muriel Nielsen, president of the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association, said that doctors often don’t follow the guidelines that require them to provide adequate information to women contemplating abortion.  Many, she said, simply “rubber-stamp” the abortion, if that is what a patient asks for, without offering sufficient information of the potential risks. 

“[The pregnant women] are not given any information that the guidelines for physicians are supposed to be telling these girls and women,” said Nielsen. “We deal with post-abortion women who were not given any information of this sort, were not told of the risks, were not told that there were places to help them.”