Challenge in U. S: Alberta Opposition leader demands province affirm abortion rights

·3 min read

EDMONTON — Alberta's Opposition leader says a renewed abortion rights fight in the United States is a “dark, dark day” and she's calling on Premier Jason Kenney’s government to affirm its commitment to women’s rights.

“Banning abortions is a form of discrimination against women and their right to choose what happens to their bodies,” New Democrat Rachel Notley, joined by some of her caucus members, said outside the legislature Tuesday.

“As reproductive freedoms are being eroded in the United States, Canadian politicians at all levels of government must declare their unwavering support for a woman’s right to choose.”

Notley said while abortion remains decriminalized in Canada, barriers still exist, particularly for women living outside major urban centres.

She noted that in Alberta abortion clinics exist only in Edmonton and Calgary.

A draft decision was leaked to media Monday indicating U.S. Supreme Court judges are contemplating overturning the 1973 landmark court decision Roe vs. Wade that guarantees the right to an abortion.

In the house during question period, Notley urged Kenney to denounce the potential reversal and the effect it would have on human rights.

Kenney responded by saying the controversy remains a hypothetical development taking place outside Alberta’s jurisdiction.

“That is for the American legal and political system,” he said.

“There has been no change in policy with respect to that procedure in Alberta, and none has been proposed.”

He added: “(Notley) is trying to create controversy where there is none in Alberta.”

NDP women’s issues critic Janis Irwin pushed the government to change a bill before the house surrounding bereavement leave.

The bill proposes three days of unpaid leave for parents grieving after a stillbirth or miscarriage. The bill, now in second reading, doesn’t specifically promise leave when a pregnancy is purposely aborted.

Notley has said that without a specific mention, some women could be in the cruel position of having to litigate to gain that right while grieving their loss.

Labour Minister Kaycee Madu has said the bill does not stop employers from granting leave due to abortion. On Tuesday, responding to Irwin, he told the house: “There will be an amendment.”

Kenney opposes abortion but has consistently stated, even before becoming premier, that he considers the matter settled in law and his government would not legislate on it.

Notley reminded him Tuesday that four years ago, he and his United Conservative Party caucus refused to support legislation proposed and passed by her government to keep protesters at a distance from abortion clinics to prevent them from harassing or videotaping patients and staff.

Kenney’s caucus members walked out of the house 14 times rather than vote as the bill worked its way through the legislative process in 2018. Only one member, Angela Pitt, spoke to it in debate.

Kenney was not in the chamber during debates and votes. He said at the time that the core issue was balancing freedom of speech versus public safety, which should be left to the courts. He dismissed the bill as divisive political gamesmanship.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2022.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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