Petition on abortion law draws criticism at Saskatchewan Legislature

A Saskatchewan member of the legislature is being criticized for presenting a petition that asks for changes to provincial abortion laws.

Petition seeks parental consent for abortions for girls under 18

Members of the Saskatchewan Legislature often present petitions delivered to them by members of the public. (Stefani Langenegger/CBC)

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 years old 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," Duncan said.

The role of an MLA doesn't change based on what issue is at hand, he 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," he said.

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 was unavailable for comment because he was travelling, the spokeswoman said.

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