Rural and remote health minister says pro-life views won’t affect abortion pill policy

Rural and Remote Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit does not hide the fact he is personally against abortion, but says that doesn’t influence his job as a cabinet minister and responsibility to allow abortion access.

First reported by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Ottenbreit recently spoke at a pro-life event in his home constituency of Yorkton, Sask.

During the address, Ottenbreit encouraged those in attendance to keep working in a positive way while respecting the views of others. He added that he will continue to do what he can in his professional capacity.

“In my professional capacity, I’m first and foremost an MLA for my constituents. One of the duties of mine is to convey those messages to members of caucus and cabinet. That’s the majority of my remarks, what they meant,” Ottenbreit said.

When pressed further on how these comments relate to abortion, Ottenbreit said he follows the government stance that the issue has been decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Right now, all [Yorkton pro-life advocates] have been talking about is conscious rights. They’ve talked about some things previous to that, but they realize the Supreme Court likely wouldn’t allow a lot of those things to happen,” Ottenbreit said.

“Most of them understand that and maybe some don’t. But that’s all I’ve really heard from them in the last little while is the protection of medical practitioners when it comes to medically assisted suicide.”

The last abortion topic discussed, according to Ottenbreit, was parental consent for minors. However, the feeling was, it wouldn’t stand up to a court challenge.

Ottenbreit also urged attendees to continue the fight, while being respectful of opposing views.

This comes as the province is reviewing universal coverage for the abortion drug, Mifegymiso. The two-pill system induces a pharmaceutical abortion in the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

The opposition NDP have accused the Saskatchewan Party government of dragging their heels on the issue.

Health critic Vicki Mowat said Mifegymiso is about half the cost of a surgical abortion, so it makes financial sense to provide universal coverage.

“It’s ok for members to have different personal opinions, but this is about him being the minister of rural and remote health and ensuring women in rural and remote areas have access to reproductive care,” Mowat said.

Health Minister Jim Reiter said universal coverage is about more than just looking at cost. In the review, ministry staff will also be examining access through private insurance, social programs and what other provinces have done.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the lone provinces that don’t offer universal access to Mifegymiso.

“This is about making sure people have access to that care. If folks are saying they don’t have access, I think we need to take that seriously and look at ways to remove those barriers,” Mowat said.

Mowat raised the issue throughout question period Thursday. Ottenbreit did not answer questions in the house, Reiter and Premier Scott Moe responded in his place.

Ottenbreit said the decision was made that he would not speak in question period, but instead handle reporter questions in an effort to fully articulate his views and not create wedge issues.

Questions and answers during question period are subject to a one-minute time limit.

Ottenbreit says his record in government shows he can separate his personal views from professional obligations.

Currently, there is no hard timeline for when the Mifegymiso review will be complete.

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