Klein squashes abortion defunding effort

Alberta Tory Premier Ralph Klein has closed the door to re-examining public funding of abortion.

The Edmonton Journal reported that Alberta’s standing policy committee on health was looking at deinsuring various procedures in order to save health care dollars for more serious health concerns and that several MLAs were hoping to have abortion funding on the table for discussion. A provincial pro-life group had began an information campaign to persuade politicians to consider deinsuring abortion as a covered procedure.

Alberta spends approximately $5 million a year on roughly 9,000 abortions. committed at public hospital and private abortuaries.

Alberta cabinet ministers Lorne Taylor and Victor Doerksen are reportedly among the MLAs who strongly disapprove of the current expenditure. The Journal reports that even politicians who support abortion, such as Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Ian McClelland, are against abortion funding. “I think abortion should be available, but I don’t think it should be paid for out of the public purse,” McClelland told the Journal. “I mean we don’t pay for braces on a kid’s teeth, but we pay for abortions. That doesn’t make sense.”

The Report newsmagazine says defunding has the support of roughly half of all provincial doctors, 67 per cent of the general population and a majority of MLAs.

Alberta Pro-Life was sending information packages to members of the provincial legislature which showed how deinsuring abortion could save the province up to $5 million a year, polling data indicating widespread support for the initiative and legal arguments that show that taxpayer-funded abortions aren’t guaranteed under the Canada Health Act. The lobbying effort had a timely launch because weeks after the information campaign began, a provincial report chaired by former federal Finance Minister Don Mazankowki suggested ways Alberta’s health system could be changed to save money. The report did not share recognize the cost-savings of defunding abortion in the province specifically, but suggested that some procedures currently covered at taxpayer expense might be covered privately. It also suggests an expert panel should decide which medical procedures should not be covered.

Patty Nixon, executive director of Alberta Pro-Life said “Abortion is not health care. It is not a medically necessary service. Why are we paying for this?”

Robin McClung, spokeswoman for Edmonton’s Morgentaler abortuary, threatened a fight if Klein sought to defund abortion – a fight Klein appeared eager to avoid.

Discussing the possibility of defunding abortion, Klein said in a press conference that “The chances, I believe, are slim and none.” The Edmonton Sun reported that when pressed on whether the issue was open to debate, Klein said, “No, it’s not. Not at all. No. Full stop.” In the legislature, Klein went further, saying “My position is that this is a matter between a woman, her doctor and her God.”

Klein also fell back on the position that abortion “is covered under the Canada Health Act.”

Nixon notes that there is no court decision or federal decree saying abortion is a medically necessary service. In fact, Senator Michael Kirby and the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs have said in their March 2001 interim report, that “the determination of what services meet the requirement of medical necessity is made in each province by the provincial government in conjunction with the medical profession.”

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