Premier Tom Marshall and others are reacting to an unexpected political football in local politics: abortion. On Friday, Frank Coleman — whose views have come into sharper focus now that he is presumed to become the province's next premier — said while he has long opposed abortion, he would never impose his views on anyone else.
A day after becoming the lone remaining candidate for the PC leadership race, Coleman issued this statement last Friday in response to queries for his support for the annual anti-abortion march outside Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook.
Democracy exists when different people share different views and are open to listening to one another.
I celebrate the fact that we live in a diverse society and I therefore do not seek to impose my personal beliefs on others for respect does not insist on its own way. I think the strength of a democracy rests on our ability to draw upon leaders from varied faiths, beliefs and experiences.
It is with humility and honesty that I say unequivocally yes, I have as a private individual participated in the Right to Life walk held each Good Friday in Corner Brook.
My family's participation in this event is a result of shared beliefs on the value of every human life. I do not seek to impose my views on anyone and truly respect the gift of free will we are all afforded.
As a leader I believe in the rule of law. It would be weak of me to deny my beliefs and at the same time it is important that people understand I do not intend to impose my personal views. I have too much respect for all the people of this Province
The premier issued a brief statement reacting to Coleman's views.
In our diverse and democratic society, citizens are entitled to hold and express a multitude of opinions and beliefs. Mr. Coleman is no exception to this inalienable right. The strength of our democracy lies in the ability of people to choose their beliefs.
Respecting others' right to possess a differing viewpoint secures our own right to do the same. Mr. Coleman has indicated his commitment to this principle and to the respect for and adherence to the rule of law, a fundamental tenet of governing in a democracy.
Accordingly the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to enforce and uphold the law in this area as laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Michael, a former Roman Catholic nun, has sided with pro-choice supporters in her party, but was careful to advise critics in challenging Coleman's beliefs.
The following was issued by Jean Graham, director of communications for the NDP caucus at the House of Assembly, on behalf of leader Lorraine Michael:
She is personally completely supportive of a woman's right to control her own body. She is also the leader of a party that is formally and officially pro-choice. That said, she is not entirely comfortable with the rush to condemn Mr. Coleman based on his religious beliefs. That is a bit of a slippery slope.
Were those beliefs ever to manifest themselves in government action, or Progressive Conservative policy or platform, she would be the first to condemn him, mind you, but until there is some sign of him actually attempting to reverse the gains we have made in the past 30 years in this province, he should be allowed to hold his views.
The leader of the Official Opposition's beliefs are tied to official Liberal policy, which broadly supports a women's rights to reproductive health.
From Carla Foote, director of communications with the Liberal caucus, on behalf of Opposition Leader Dwight Ball:
I understand that Mr. Coleman is still a candidate in the PC leadership. While he is the only candidate, he will not be leader of the PC Party until July. Given that Mr. Coleman is still a private individual it would not be appropriate for Dwight to comment on the personal views of Mr. Coleman.
I understand that Dwight's personal beliefs are consistent with the those of the Liberal Party. He is the leader of the party and therefore his beliefs reflect those of the majority of Liberals
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, the minister of municipal and intergovernmental affairs noted his personal history with adoption in a statement that explained his pro-choice views, as well as what supports he believes government ought to provide.
I believe in a woman's right to choose. The decision to have an abortion is not made lightly, and there should not be extensive red tape making the decision even more difficult.
That being said, I think that, as a society, we should be working toward creating conditions that make the difficult decision to have an abortion a very rare occurrence.
We can create that social change by working in a number of areas:
1. Ensuring that sex education continues to expand to include even more information about the emotional and social issues of sexuality;
2. Enabling more straightforward access to birth control and 'morning after' solutions in ways that do not shame women for their sexuality;
3. Continuing to improve the adoption process to provide all the support needed for the challenges faced by people on both sides of the adoption equation.
These social changes are underway, but there is more work to be done.
Individuals have the right to hold their opinions. But the only way to truly respect everyone's choices is to ensure that all options are equally available and each individual can decide for themselves.
This issue is indeed a very personal one. As someone who was adopted, I am very grateful for the choice that my birth mother made. I recognize that none of the choices she faced were easy ones
After shutting down his campaign last week, Corner Brook businessman Bill Barry responded to CBC's request for an interview about Coleman's abortion comments.
Being raised a Catholic I did personally struggle with this matter in my younger years. Eventually however as I grew as a individual I began to realize it is a basic principal of freedom of an individual; in this case ... a female.
Church doctrine written by males exclusively with a mindset of domination and control have driven this agenda to be characterized against God's or for God's will .... all self-serving to say the least.
Another point which is worthy of reflection is that one often sees those who are advantaged by wealth as "pro-Life".... and many less well off who are forced by the reality of poverty to be pro-choice.
At the end of the day a female's or male's rights are primary in nature and equal in all respects. If one accepts this proposition, as I certainly do, then one has no conclusion to be reached other than to support a female's right to choose.