Doug Ford says 'we've got to consult parents' when it comes to minors' access to abortion

Ontario PC leadership candidate Doug Ford has taken the controversial step of reopening the abortion debate, suggesting that parents of minors should be consulted before they can access the procedure.

Kids 'can't even get their tonsils out without' parents' approval, said Ford

Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Ford in Windsor (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Doug Ford has taken the controversial step of reopening the abortion debate, suggesting that parents of minors should be consulted before they can access the procedure.

Ford made the comments in an interview with CBC News while visiting Windsor, Ont., as part of a cross-province campaign tour to shore up support in the race to lead the party into the June 7 provincial election. 

"Kids can't even get their tonsils out without the approval of their parents," he said. "I think we've got to consult parents, and that's what we have to do."

It was not only a departure from the stances of some of his fellow leadership rivals, but also seemingly out of step with the Ontario's own policies around patient capacity.

According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's consent to treatment policy around minors, "the test of capacity to consent to a treatment is not age-dependent."

'Problems where they don't exist'

"If a minor is capable with respect to a treatment, the physician must obtain consent from the minor directly," reads the policy approved as far back as May 28, 2017. That applies even if a parent or guardian accompanies the minor. 

For leadership candidate Christine Elliott, Ford's stance represents nothing but vote-grabbing. 

"I think Doug is trying to make problems where they don't exist. I think there are some people that may have some concerns but I think right now what Doug is doing is trying to get more votes," she said.

Elliott added that she does not support any restrictions on abortion access, but would support a free vote by party members on any issues involving matters of conscience.
One political science professor noted that during the leadership campaign, there was little ideological distance among the candidates. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"I understand that some people have views that are different than mine and I respect their right to express those views and to vote in the way that they feel is necessary for themselves."

Asked for her position on the issue, Caroline Mulroney said she would not reopen the debate. 

"I oppose any changes to abortion access, any changes that criminalize a woman's right to choose. I've been very clear on that."

Parents need louder voice, candidates agree

Tanya Granic Allen, also running for the party leadership, was not available for comment Sunday, but is listed as a board member of the Catholic Civil Rights League.

On its website, the CCRL states that "a firm and principled rejection of abortion is inseparable from an adherence to the Catholic faith."

Allen, a mother of four and the president of a group called Parents As First Educators, has branded herself an outspoken opponent of Ontario's sex ed curriculum. The province's curriculum was revamped in 2015 under Premier Kathleen Wynne with a greater focus on issues like 'sexting' and consent.

Ford has previously spoken about the province's sex ed curriculum, saying he plans to revisit it should he win the leadership race and go on to represent the party in the provincial election.

"Sex ed curriculum should be about facts, not teaching Liberal ideology," said Ford earlier this month, adding he will "stand for parents" having the first and final say about what their kids are taught.

Elliott has said she believes sex education should be taught in schools but agrees with Ford that Wynne's government didn't consult enough with parents.

Meanwhile, Mulroney has said she would not undo any changes that have already been made, but acknowledged parents should have a louder voice when it comes to revisions, according to a spokesperson.

On Saturday, the Tories extended the deadline for members to register for the right to vote and to cast their ballots, pushing it back, for the third time, from March 8 to noon on March 9.