By John-Henry Westen

OTTAWA, February 4, 2010 ( – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has taken a beating even in the mainstream media and from within his own party over his insistence that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper include abortion in the Canadian plan for maternal health to be proposed at the G8 meeting. 

In comments to (LSN) earlier this week, Liberal MP Paul Szabo jumped into the fray, taking issue with the Liberal Leader’s statement that there is consensus on the matter of abortion within the Party. Disputing Ignatieff’s claim of consensus, Szabo said, “I am a pro-life MP and there are many of my colleagues in the Liberal caucus who will protect the unborn in their decisions as Parliamentarians, and should matters come before the House they will continue to act accordingly.”

After those remarks were picked up the by Canadian Press, reporters today asked Ignatieff to respond to Szabo.

“Speaking of my colleague and friend Paul Szabo,” Ignatieff said, “I’m in a party that has deep respect for the privately held views of my colleagues and friends.”  He added, however, that while he respected freedom of conscience on the matter, the “real issue” is “will Canada continue with its 25 year old policy of supporting full access to the full gamut of reproductive health services that women need in order to have safe pregnancies, safe terminations, and healthy kids?”

Even Conservative Party officials who have in the past shied away from the abortion issue have come out swinging against Ignatieff’s remarks. The National Post reported Harper’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas saying: “This has nothing to do with abortion, or gay marriage or capital punishment, in case those are going to be [Mr. Ignatieff’s] next arguments on this issue.  At the end of the day, maternal and child health is about saving lives of vulnerable children and mothers in the developing world.”

Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political scientist and former campaign manager for the Conservative party told the Post: “Of all the issues that you could possibly raise about women’s health, why would you start with abortion?  What kind of mindset is that that you have to start killing unborn babies in order to help people? It seems to be based on the now discredited theory that poverty in the Third World is based on overpopulation. I don’t think any serious scholar believes that anymore.” 

In addition, the National Post has published an editorial slamming Ignatieff for being so far to the extreme left on the abortion issue.

The most recent criticism came from Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins, who said on Thursday that, “In light of the many positive contributions that Canada can make to the improvement of maternal and child health, it is astonishing that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Michael Ignatieff, has issued an official statement advocating contraception and abortion as fundamental elements in addressing this important issue.”