The LB Podcast Blog
Today marked the end of a bitter fight between the governing UCP and the opposition NDP over Bill 207, a so-called "conscience rights" bill. This piece of legislation was tabled only last week by Peace River MLA Dan Williams, a staunch anti-choice advocate who has attended the "March For Life" and has gone on record as being against abortion.
It makes one wonder why a member of the legislature would table a bill so badly flawed, that 4 of the government's own MLAs on the committee voted against it. But the answer is simple: Conservatives are playing the long game. This was most certainly part of a longer-term strategy to wear down existing laws, chip away at human rights, and to see how far they can go with each bill presented, at both the provincial and federal level. Take what is happening in the United States as an example of what I mean. Pro-life groups actually voted against state legislation on total abortion bans, favouring an "incremental approach".
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that this bill didn't make it as far as some feared it would. However, even though Bill 207 didn't make it through, it did offer up enough distraction to make some of us forget that Bill 22 did. Interestingly enough, one of the UCP MLAs questioned by the RCMP for this investigation into its leadership election of Jason Kenney was none other than Joseph Schow, the same MLA who chaired the committee that voted down Bill 207 tonight. Make of that what you will, but it seems all too convenient that a government that wants to eliminate the election commissioner's office also tried to put through a "conscience rights" bill at the same time.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the many physicians who spoke out against this bill. Dr. Jillian Ratti told me that she believes the UCP government is using this bill to deflect attention away from the ramming through of Bill 22, and that this could galvanize the pro-life movement and their supporters. You can listen to the full interview below:
While most of the discussion has centred on abortion rights, it should not be forgotten that "conscience rights" has implications for the LGBTQ community as well. Trans rights advocates fear that if legislation like this were to go ahead, it could mean that people needing HRT or gender affirming surgery would be denied treatment or referrals by physicians. This is especially troubling in rural areas of Alberta, a traditionally so-con province where LGBTQ rights are still being fought over in the legislature.
There were also concerns about right-to-die legislation and how patients who sought medically assisted death could be refused help from a physician, and/or referrals. These people would die in pain and agony without a doctor there to help them retain some form of dignity. In a statement released November 19th, Dying With Dignity Canada board member Bradley Peter said, "People who request MAID are some of the most vulnerable, physically compromised patients in our public health care system. To deny them even the most basic information about MAID and a referral to a willing provider is akin to patient abandonment."
It's hard to believe that in Canada in 2019, we still need to talk about, and defend, human rights and bodily autonomy. Yet here we are. It's not a stretch to say that at this point, the fact that this bill was defeated at the committee stage is a distraction at best. This fight is not over by a long shot. Those of us in democratic socialist circles know that it's only a matter of time before "conscience rights" bills, or "fetal personhood" bills rear their ugly heads again. In the meantime, we shall celebrate this minor victory, rest, and be ready to fight again tomorrow.
THE LB PODCAST BLOG
A blog for the revolutionaries.