Quebec’s premier denies limiting access to abortions

QUEBEC CITY — Despite announcing he will scale back spending this year and implement medical reforms, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard denied Wednesday he is trying to limit abortions for women.

“On the contrary,” said the Premier.

“With Bill 20, doctors will be able to offer more services, including abortions.”

But a group of concerned physicians pointed to a ministerial document which indicated there will be a cap system for doctors who perform abortions, and that under the new rules, terminating pregnancies will no longer be considered “priority medical activities.”

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette spent a record 26 minutes in a scrum with reporters, explaining any potential quota would only apply to new doctors entering the system.

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“We are asking them to increase their services offered to patients and in this offer, we’re asking them to have a variety,” he said.

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Barrette insisted he has no intention of curbing access to abortion.

He said he remembers being a young doctor during women’s pro-choice fight.

“Many times women were denied access for ethical reasons at that time,” he noted.

“We have come a long way from that situation, and today, women have their own choice and they can do it in their own time, their pace, their own setting.”

“That’s the way it should be in Quebec and that’s the way it should remain.”

However, Quebec’s Federation of Nurses is worried.

“We will be watching this extremely closely,” said FIQ spokesperson Nancy Bédard.

“There shouldn’t be any going back on women’s acquired rights.”

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) said it’s clear doctors will have to spend more time doing other tasks in hospitals and clinics, if Bill 20 is put into law.

“If you ask doctors to do fewer abortions in order to take charge of more patients, of course you reduce access,” observed the CAQ’s leader, François Legault.

READ MOREQuebec expected to table first balanced budget since 2008

Quebecers will be watching Thursday’s budget for guarantees services will be maintained.

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In the meantime, parties at the National Assembly are asking that Barrette remove any mention of abortion quotas from his working documents.