Kenney, once an 'anti-abortion activist,' refuses to comment on American controversy

Alberta's premier was challenged to "reaffirm" the province's commitment to women's reproductive rights Tuesday, but Jason Kenney dodged the matter, instead accusing his NDP opponents of creating controversy.

Abortion laws are again a hot topic in global politics following the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, a move that could lead to some states banning abortion.

"An NDP government will do everything we can to protect reproductive rights here in Alberta and frankly across this country," NDP Leader Rachel Notley said on the steps of the legislature Tuesday.

Later in the house, she challenged Kenney to commit to protecting abortion rights, funding and access in Alberta.

"I'm hoping the premier can stand today and reaffirm, to those concerned Albertans, our commitment to a women's right to choose. Will he join me in condemning this attack on reproductive rights?" Notley said.

Kenney, who as a university student once did an interview with CNN in which he was labelled an "anti-abortion activist," said Tuesday that he didn't want to get involved in the controversy.

In 2018, before he was elected premier, Kenney said he is anti-abortion but promised not to legislate on his beliefs.

He said he’d stay away from “divisive social issues”.

He said his views had evolved.

Then came Bill 8, an attack on 2SLGBTQ+ students.

Then came Bill 207, an attack on women and trans healthcare.

Is it any wonder we don’t trust his government will protect abortion rights?

— Janis Irwin (@JanisIrwin) May 3, 2022

"That is for the American legal and political system. There has been no change with respect to that policy in Alberta and none has been proposed," he explained.

Notley demanded that Kenney "stand up" to forever guarantee access to abortion in Alberta, but Kenney refused.

"Individuals can have individual views about that, but what the (NDP) leader is trying to do is invent a political controversy that does not and has not existed in Alberta politics," Kenney responded.

One of Kenney's MLAs, Dan Williams from Peace River, also refused to comment on what's going on in the states, but he reaffirmed his pro-life stance.

"It's a reasonable position to hold, and of course where I can advocate for life positions that respect the dignity of every human life from conception all the way on including unborn children, I'm going to continue to do that," Williams told reporters.

The NDP is also calling on the government to add abortion and "termination for medical reasons" to Bill 17, which would allow three days of unpaid leave for parents grieving after a stillbirth or miscarriage.

Labour Minister Kaycee Madu has said the bill does not stop employers from granting leave due to abortion. On Tuesday, responding to NDP MLA Janis Irwin's inquiries, he told the house: “There will be an amendment.”

 While abortion was decriminalized in Canada in 1988 as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada striking down a federal law, no legislation was ever passed to replace it.

"Every woman in Canada has a right to a safe and legal abortion. We’ll never back down from protecting and promoting women’s rights in Canada and around the world," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Tuesday.

No final decision has been made by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.

Some states have already passed "trigger laws" that would automatically ban or severely limit abortion in the event that Roe is overturned.

With files from CTV News' Rachel Aiello, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press