Canadian Prime Minister Candidate Harper Would Allow Abortion Vote

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 3, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian Prime Minister Candidate Harper Would Allow Abortion Vote

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 3, 2004

Ottawa, Canada ( — After saying he backs abortion, and funded with taxpayer money, Canadian prime minister candidate Stephen Harper says he would allow members of his Conservative Party to vote their conscience on a bill that would require abortion businesses to give women factual information about abortion’s risks and dangers.

Harper told the Canadian Press that he would allow a vote if a Member of Parliament introduced a private bill on abortion. His administration, if he is elected, would not table the bill.

"Absolutely . . . I would generally continue the practice of allowing free votes on all private member’s legislation," Harper told a news conference.

"The only time I might take a different view is if something . . . dealt directly with our election commitments, in which case I would insist that we follow the party position," Harper added, according to the Canadian Press.

Meanwhile, current Prime Minister Paul Martin challenged Harper on his comments.

"I think it would be very good if Mr. Harper declared himself personally on a woman’s right to choose," Martin told the Toronto Star newspaper. "Is he in favor, or not? I have already stated my position."

Earlier this week, Rob Merrifield, the Conservative Party’s spokesman on health issues, says he wants women to be given more impartial abortion information.

But Harper said he didn’t want to change Canada’s abortion 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.