The Conservative government has been apathetic about abortion and should be more moderate, Conservative MP Brad Trost says.
On Wednesday, he said the government's decision to provide funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation for sex education and contraception programs has reopened the abortion debate. The Saskatchewan MP is opposed to abortion and opposes funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortions where the service is legal.
Speaking to CBC's Evan Solomon, host of Power & Politics, Trost said the government should "take a position that's at least moderate, rather than the extreme left position that we're taking."
"I don't think the government takes an actively left-wing position, but the government has taken an apathetic position toward it, and I don't feel that's appropriate. I feel that it's a civil rights issue that needs to be addressed," Trost said.
The decision by the Canadian International Development Agency and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda has re-opened the abortion debate, he said, adding that means MPs will start to speak out about it.
"So in reinvigorating the debate as they have by funding IPPF, you'll see more politicians like myself will be discussing the matter. In a respectful way, but it will be discussed," he told CBC News following his interview with Solomon.
Trost said some social conservatives will feel it was a slap in the face. He admits he may get in trouble for speaking out against a Conservative minister's decision.
"Prime Minister Harper is always very fair. While he probably won't be exactly thrilled with what I'm saying, they do understand there's differences of opinion in the caucus on this issue," he said.
'Women have the right to choose'
NDP International Co-operation critic Hélène Laverdière said there isn't a huge debate in Canada over abortion, but the debate seems to be raging inside the Conservative Party.
"The Tories have to tell us if they're ready to respect ... a woman's right to choose," she said.
"In Canada right now, women have the right to choose and we still don't understand why we would say that women in less developed countries wouldn't have the same right to choose as Canadian women," Laverdière added.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has consistently said he doesn't want to re-open the debate over abortion in Canada.
The issue arose last year when Harper announced maternal and child health would be a focus of the Canadian-hosted G8 meeting in Muskoka, and again last April when Trost said Planned Parenthood had been "de-funded" as a result of petitions by anti-abortion groups.
Last week, CBC News reported the Conservative government would give Planned Parenthood $6 million for sex education and contraception projects in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mali, Sudan and Tanzania.
The group's funding ran out in 2009, and the Canadian International Development Agency didn't respond to its 2009 or 2010 requests for financial support.
'Taught a lesson'
In a statement posted on his website Wednesday afternoon, Trost says Canada's anti-abortion movement must be more aggressive.
"Many, many Conservative MPs pressed the [prime minister's office] to stop the funds from flowing," Trost wrote on his website. "Federal funding did stop for a time. Funds allocated to IPPF were considerably reduced. Furthermore, federal grants for IPPF also had more strings attached.
"This only happened because of the pressure applied. This was a real victory.
"Pro-life politicians have been taught a lesson. The government only responds to pro-life issues and concerns when we take an aggressive stance. We will apply this lesson."
MPs started asking quietly in 2006 for the funding to be pulled, Trost writes, but they were ignored because they asked politely behind closed doors. Trost says the campaign went public in 2009 and that's when they saw results.
In April, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Planned Parenthood was eligible for funding as long as they fit the criteria her agency had set out. The government said the money allotted for maternal and child health projects was not to be used for abortion funding.
'The proper thing to do'
Oda's spokesman reiterated those comments Wednesday in response to Trost.
"We said during the election that an application from this organization would be approved if it met the criteria of the program. After completing due diligence, the government decided to fund the portion of the proposal that met the Government’s Muskoka Initiative in five countries of focus," Justin Broekema said in a statement.
Harper's spokesman declined to comment on Trost's declaration that the debate is re-opened.
Trost says he's not attacking the government but criticizing one decision. And he says he owes it to his constituents to be honest.
"Ultimately, I have the backing of my constituency association and the Conservatives there. That's who I represent. Because I've been vocal on this issue before, I owe them my democratic voice. I also owe my democratic voice to people who disagree with me so they know honestly whether or not to vote for or against me in the next election. It's the proper thing to do."