By Hilary White

CANBERRA, January 28, 2010 ( – Tony Abbott, the leader of Australia’s federal opposition, has been blasted in the mainstream press after he called on young women to “stick to the rules” about refraining from sex before marriage. Abbott, a Catholic and father of three teenage daughters, went on, however, to tell the interviewer with the Australian Women's Weekly that if young women cannot abstain, they should use contraception.

The Federal Member for Warringah and shadow Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, told the magazine that he would say to his daughters that sex “is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don’t give it to someone lightly, that is what I would say.”

On the question of abortion, however, Abbott backed away from the possibility of re-criminalization, saying only, “I have never suggested that it should be re-criminalized. All I have ever said was that I would like to see fewer abortions.”

On homosexual “marriage,” Abbott said, “There is nothing wrong in the slightest, nothing at all wrong with same-sex couples wanting, I guess, to celebrate their commitment to each other. That is a good thing, not a bad thing. But I do think there is a difference [in a relationship] between a man and a woman, and being open to kids.”

On drugs, Abbott admitted to having once used cannabis: “To be sociable, I puffed on a marijuana cigarette.” But, he said, “I didn’t inhale – I don’t even inhale normal cigarettes. I just hate the idea of drawing smoke into my lungs, so … when it comes to getting stoned in that way, I was a complete failure.”

Despite Abbott’s distance from a comprehensive pro-life and pro-family stand, the mainstream media has pounced on his comments on sex before marriage. The Australian lead the pack with the headline, “Abbott confirms women's worst fears.” The Australian quoted Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard saying that Australian women “don't want to be lectured by Mr. Abbott.”

“These comments will confirm the worst fears of Australian women about Tony Abbott. Australian women don't want to be told what to do by Tony Abbott,” Gillard continued. 

The Age headlined, “'Hypocrite' Abbott panned for virginity stance.” In that article comedian Fiona Scott-Norman labeled Abbott a hypocrite, and said of him: “Yet another self-acknowledged one-time drug-taking, 'Vatican roulette' playing, shagabout, white, middle-aged male telling young women not to do what he did when he was their age.”

Some who have written in to the papers, however, have begged to differ with the media’s excoriation. Melita Smilovic of Camperdown wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald that she is “pro-choice, a feminist, non-religious and I have never voted for the Liberal Party,” but that she would also advise her daughters “not to give their virginity away lightly.”

“Teaching them to respect and value their bodies and to treat their sexuality as something precious is a message they will rarely hear in a culture that sexualises children and makes young women feel worthless unless they fit a narrow and damaging view of what is sexually desirable. Thanks, Tony,” Smilovic concluded.

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