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Abortion activists concerned after UCP MLA Dan Williams speaks at pro-life rally

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Abortion activists are raising concerns after multiple United Conservative Party MLAs attended a pro-life rally at the Alberta legislature Thursday.

Among them was Alberta's Mental Health and Addictions Minister Dan Williams, who shared his pro-life stance with abortion with protesters.

Williams has attended similar rallies since being elected, defending his decision to do so as a private member of the legislature.

It's something Autumn Reinhardt Simpson, founder of Alberta Abortion Access, doesn't believe is appropriate.

"People should be allowed to attend rallies as a private citizen, there's no problem there," she added. " However, this event specifically billed Williams as the MLA for Peace River.

"So I think it would be very difficult for some people to separate out the public from the private when the speaker is literally being billed as a member of the government."

Simpson said Williams' appearance at the March for Life event is significant because he's tried to limit access to abortion services in the past.

Bill 207, sponsored by Williams in 2019, would have removed the requirement of doctors to refer treatment for services they don't wish to provide based on freedom of conscience or religion.

Current legislation does allow for conscientious objection to procedures that would go against their beliefs, but they must refer a patient to another provider that will.

"The (political) right in Alberta works in lockstep with the right in the United States where I'm from," Simpson said. "And right now, in the United States, we're seeing attacks on all kinds of things disguised as parental rights."

Simpson cites a province-wide phone poll from February on parental rights, which included whether minors should be able to access abortion services without parental consent.

However, the Alberta government said it was not behind the poll carried out by the Calgary-based conservative call centre National Public Research Canada.

"I think what's going to happen is that people are going to chip away at these little areas where they think they sound reasonable, but which is really all about restricting care for pregnant people," Simpson added.

Premier Danielle Smith has said she is pro-choice and proud to lead a party with a wide range of perspectives.

Last week, when asked if there were plans in Alberta to limit access to abortion services, Smith said "no."

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