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Petition calls for parental consent before abortions in Saskatchewan

05/07/2015 03:48 EDT | Updated 05/07/2016 05:59 EDT
REGINA - A Saskatchewan member of the legislature is being criticized for presenting a petition that asks for changes to provincial abortion laws.

Greg Ottenbreit, the minister responsible for rural and remote health, tabled a petition last week that calls for "speedily (enacted) legislation requiring parental consent for abortion."

Girls under 18 do not need parental consent to receive an abortion in Saskatchewan.

A similar petition was presented by New Democrat Warren McCall in mid-April.

NDP health critic Danielle Chartier said Thursday that it was an inappropriate move by Ottenbreit, given his portfolio.

"There are many beliefs that can be held in a caucus, but the reality is he's one of the health ministers ... who is responsible for funding and setting policy, and therein lies the problem," she said.

Ottenbreit is a member of the Saskatchewan Pro Life Association. The group held a rally outside the provincial legislature Thursday with some members holding signs that read "parental consent."

Chartier suggested Ottenbreit could have asked another legislature member to present the petition.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan, who said there won't be changes to the province's abortion law, said MLAs have an obligation to present petitions on behalf of their constituents.

"We present petitions as MLAs in a way that doesn't say we endorse the petitions, but we're doing so because our constituents have presented us with something that they feel strongly about," he said.

The role of an MLA doesn't change based on what issue is at hand, Duncan added.

"If a group of constituents ... come to my office and present a petition, I'm not going to throw it in the garbage. I'm not going to put it in a shredder."

People who signed the petition listed their addresses in Craik, Regina, Mossbank and Davidson — communities hundreds of kilometres away from Ottenbreit's constituency of Yorkton.

A government spokeswoman said MLAs are able to present petitions regardless of where signatories live.

Ottenbreit said his opinion doesn't affect whether he will present a petition.

"Personally I don't see a conflict," he said. "I think it's not only my obligation but my duty to do that on behalf of the people that elected me."

A Progressive Conservative was to present a similar petition later this year to the Alberta legislature. Incumbent Ian Donovan, who was defeated in Tuesday's provincial election, was to table the document on behalf of Wilberforce Project, formerly known as Alberta Pro-Life.

The petition calls on the Alberta government to pass legislation to "make it necessary for a minor's legal guardian to consent to, or at least be informed of, abortion procedures being performed upon any minors in their charge."

Rosey Rosenke, executive director of Wilberforce, said a Wildrose party MLA has agreed to present the petition now that Donovan can't do it.

"Our kids need permission to go on a field trip from us. It just doesn't make sense that they wouldn't need permission to go through a medical procedure that carries so many consequences with it," she said.

— With files from John Cotter in Edmonton

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