Lethbridge Herald

MLA Schow vows support for Bill 207

- Cole Parkinson VAUXHALL ADVANCE

While Bill 207 may have hit a roadblock, it may not be a total dead stop.

The bill centres around conscience rights for health practition­ers which would provide immunity from discipline for health providers who refuse to address patient needs that offend their conscience, including opting to decline to provide a referral.

Sitting on the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills, Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow was one of two members voting in favour of the bill, the other was BrooksMedi­cine Hat MLA Michael Glasgo.

“My voting record is pretty clear. I was one of two members who voted against non-concurrenc­e. It is a bit of a complicate­d process to explain but effectivel­y the committee decided that they didn’t feel the bill was prepared or ready to be debated, or should be debated by the legislativ­e assembly so they voted for nonconcurr­ence. I voted against that which meant I didn’t agree with the committee’s decision.

“Eight of the members did vote for non-concurrenc­e and what that means is now the bill goes back to the chamber and for one hour max, we will debate the non-concurrenc­e motion by the committee. We started that on Dec. 2, but unfortunat­ely, that was interrupte­d by the speaker because of the man who tragically took his own life on the steps of the legislatur­e,” explained Schow in an interview with the Advance in December. “

I have always been a defender of conscience rights. I think they are fundamenta­l and they are under the fundamenta­l freedoms in the charter.

‘So, when this bill came forward, I spoke to the mover of the bill, Mr. (Dan) Williams (Peace River MLA), about the purpose of the bill. I was fully in support of this.”

The bill was discussed once again in the legislatur­e during the committees meeting on Nov. 21 and Schow was vocal in his support for conscience rights. Dr. Jillian Ratti was one of the speakers at the legislatur­e arguing against Bill 207 and Schow asked her a question around conscience rights.

“Just quickly and just for clearing the record, this committee does not have the ability to kill any bill. We simply make recommenda­tions as to whether a bill should move forward in the chamber. But to the question. From 1928 to 1972 Alberta had in place the Sexual Sterilizat­ion Act as government policy from the state. That had doctors forcibly sterilize vulnerable people as part of wider eugenics movement. This was considered normal and appropriat­e medical care and had substantia­l public support at the time. Let’s flashback to 1949. Say that you were living then instead of 2019. Would you participat­e or refer forced sterilizat­ion?” asked Schow.

“I resent the fact that you are comparing abortion to eugenics, and I won’t answer your question,” replied Ratti.

Schow answered back that he was simply asking a question and not comparing the two.

“Dr. Ratti, I did not compare abortion to eugenics. I’m simply asking you about a conscience matter here. I believe conscience is important.

“I believe you have every right to practise medicine as you do, and I support that right one hundred per cent. But the question is simply — it’s about conscience rights and conscienti­ous objections,” he said.

 ??  ?? Joseph Schow
Joseph Schow

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