CANBERRA, October 20, 2011 ( – The leader of Australia’s opposition party, often referred to in the media as a social conservative, has said this week that should he be elected, his government would not consider changing the country’s abortion laws.

Tony Abbott, a Catholic and self-described “conservative,” is federal leader of the centre-right Liberal Party.

In response to a question about whether he would consider moving Australia back to its old abortion laws, Abbott told The Age, “Look at the record in government. It didn’t happen.”


And it won’t happen?


End of story?

“End of story.”

Abbott also told The Age newspaper that his government would not try to outlaw the deadly abortion drug RU-486.

Abbott’s comments to The Age came in response to a recently published biography by feminist academic Susan Mitchell, that summed him up as a man subject to an “innate and deeply embedded sexism and misogyny,” driven by devotion to the defence of the unborn and Catholic moral values. Abbott responded to Mitchell’s portrayal as “a work of fiction.”

“I don’t think anyone who actually knows me would make those sorts of claims,” Abbott said.

He added that should the issue of embryonic stem cell research come before Parliament, it would be left to a conscience vote.

He said his positions have changed over time and with his attainment of higher positions in government: “I would be surprised if people didn’t think the evolution had been in reassuring directions, rather than the opposite.”

“One of the things you realise when you become party leader is you don’t have the luxury of personal views. Others can have personal views, the party leader can’t,” Abbott said. Questions on his views on abortion, he said, are “perfectly legitimate,”  but, he added, voters should refer to his record: “I think there are obvious answers.”

Abbott’s reassurance this week to abortion supporters do not come as a surprise. In a 2010 interview, he said that he “never suggested that [abortion] should be re-criminalized,” and added only that he would like to see “fewer abortions.”

In the same interview, Abbott also endorsed homosexual civil partnerships, if not an outright legal redefinition of marriage, saying, “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.”

Nevertheless, Abbott is still widely characterized in the media and by feminists as a conservative extremist, a Catholic reactionary who is a threat to legal abortion, women’s rights and a inventory of leftist pet causes.

His suggestion in the 2010 interview that young women should refrain from sex before marriage was met with outrage from the feminist left, although he immediately followed up with an endorsement of contraception.

Then-Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a hard-left feminist who is now Prime Minister, said the comments, “confirm the worst fears of Australian women about Tony Abbott.”