Canadian Leaders Debate Changing Abortion Law, Helping Women

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 1, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian Leaders Debate Changing Abortion Law, Helping Women

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 1, 2004

Ottawa, Canada ( — Canadian political leaders are wrestling over the question of whether or not to change Canada’s abortion law.

Rob Merrifield, the Conservative Party’s spokesman on health issues, says he wants women to be given more impartial abortion information. But, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has indicated he doesn’t want to change the law right now.

In an interview with the Toronto Globe newspaper, Merrifield said he thought providing women with dispassionate information about abortion’s risks and alternatives was "valuable" because women considering abortion are only getting one side of the picture from abortion facility staff.

"People who take part in it may only be seeing one side of it," Merrifield, a member of the Canadian parliament, said.

But with the Conservative Party looking to attract new voters in a nation that largely approves or ignores legal abortion, his push for changing the law is meeting some resistance.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper responded to reporters asking about Merrifield’s comments.

"I’ve been clear," Harper explained. "A Conservative government led by me will not be tabling abortion legislation. It will not be sponsoring an abortion referendum."

"We know different people in our party have different views on abortion and they’re entitled to them, but the truth of the matter is this is an issue that could not be done at the federal level anyway. It’s a matter of provincial jurisdiction," Harper added.

Harper said Merrifield’s comments do not reflect the goals he is advocating. Harper said his own beliefs are somewhere in the middle of the abortion debate.

Harper said he would oppose any legislation that would limit taxpayer funding of abortions, saying it was a matter for the courts.

At a news conference, Prime Minister Paul Martin said he backs abortion. "It is my view that it is always a woman’s right to choose."