By John-Henry Westen

OTTAWA, February 2, 2010 ( – In a Liberal Party press release today, the Liberals demand that Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper include abortion and contraception as part of his proposed maternal health initiative. In addition, the Liberal leadership is demanding funding for the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

In a press scrum following a lengthy Liberal caucus meeting Ignatieff expanded on the theme, noting that during “the Bush regime” federal funds were prohibited from groups which performed or advocated for abortion. “We don’t want us to go that way,” Ignatieff said. “We want to make sure that women have access to all the contraceptive methods available to control their fertility because we don’t want to have women dying because of botched procedures, we don’t want to have women dying in misery.”

The release says: “Liberals are concerned that Stephen Harper’s maternal health initiative will not fund organizations that advance women’s rights to reproductive choice and access to birth control.” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is quoted as saying, “So we want a clear commitment that women’s reproductive rights – and the organizations that promote them – will not be jeopardized by the Conservative caucus.”

Claiming to speak for the entire Liberal caucus, Ignatieff praised Harper’s maternal health initiative, but added that “the one thing we feel very strongly about is that if you are going to do that and do it seriously, the full range of access to reproductive health services should be made available.” Asked for clarification that he meant abortion, Ignatieff said, “We’ve had a pro-choice consensus in this area for a couple of generations and we want to hold it.”

The demand to the Conservatives came with a backgrounder for the media filled with pro-life quotes from Conservative MPs. (LSN) contacted several pro-life Liberal members for their comments. Liberal MP Paul Szabo says he was caught off guard by the announcement, noting that the subject was not even raised during the caucus meeting

“The full day was on CIDA issues,” he said. “I sat there all day long, the subject wasn’t discussed.”

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.”

Szabo said it was “opportunistic” of the Women’s Caucus of the Liberals to use something as important as maternal health to push their pro-abortion agenda.

“I don’t think this is Liberal Party position,” he concluded, “it was never discussed with the caucus and the caucus never had an opportunity to express its views.”