Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 7, 2004
Abortion becomes campaign issue
Pre-abortion counselling draws fire from politicians
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Campaign Life Coalition say it agrees with Conservative health critic Rob Merrifield, who suggests that women get counselling before abortions.
"This would be a very positive initiative for women, because, as we know most women are not given full information about abortion before they go through the procedure," said Jim Hughes, president of CLC.
"After they find out the truth they are burdened for the rest of their lives with what they have done."
Hughes added in a news release June 1 that, "Henry Morgentaler and others who claim to be pro-choice seem to be against women having a truly informed choice."
Conservative leader Stephen Harper did not want abortion to be an issue in the current federal election campaign but Merrifield's comment in an interview May 31 that it would be "valuable" for women to receive third-party independent counselling before getting an abortion drew protests from two Liberal cabinet ministers.
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan called Merrifield's remarks "patronizing and unacceptable" and told reporters that he should be removed as the Conservative health critic if his views did not represent the Conservative party's position.
Public Health Minister Carolyn Bennett also told the Canadian Press that Merrifield's comments demonstrate his party's true colours. "I just think that it's the social conservative agenda that comes out again," she said.
Merrifield's remarks placed the Tory leader on the defensive while campaigning in Whitby, Ont., June 1. Harper said Merrifield went slightly "off message" on the party platform and added that he has no intention of discussing the abortion issue during an election.
He also said he would allow a free vote on abortion if one of his MPs introduced a private member's bill to eliminate public funding for abortion. As for his response to such a bill, "I would oppose that," Harper said.
"Health-care money should go to the provinces for them to decide how to run a health care system." He also said it is up to the provinces to decide how abortion services are administered.
Prime Minister Paul Martin, campaigning in British Columbia, told reporters he believes "a woman should have the right to choose."