NDP candidate says her anti-abortion views changed but won't explain how or why

The NDP candidate in the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake byelection has backtracked on anti-abortion statements made at the March for Life in 2014.

Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition is 'surprised' but not concerned about 2014 quotes

Nicole Mooney, left, is the NDP candidate for the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake byelection. (CBC)

The NDP's byelection candidate in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake is backtracking on anti-abortion comments she made several years ago while on a field trip with dozens of her high school students at the 2014 March for Life protest.

In an statement provided to CBC News, Nicole Mooney disavowed remarks attributed to her in a religious newspaper four years ago, saying that they do not match her current opinions. The statement did not include a detailed explanation for the shift.

In May 2014, the high school teacher was quoted in the Western Catholic Reporter as saying the March for Life was an important event to participate in, and that "we want to promote among our kids the message that abortion is wrong and that life begins at conception."

At the time, Mooney was listed as an instructor at St. Dominic Catholic High School in Rocky Mountain House.

Rachel Notley's NDP government has a pro-choice policy and, in fact, recently passed legislation setting a 50-metre protester-free zone around Alberta's two stand-alone abortion clinics.

Cites employer as part of anti-abortion viewpoint

Mooney declined an interview request from CBC News, and referred to the following statement via email.

"I chose to run for a party that represents my values — including my strongly held belief in a woman's right to choose. The views I expressed years ago while representing my employer are not the views I hold today." 

However, four years after those views were expressed, Mooney's employer does not appear to have changed.

As a teacher at St. Dominic in 2014, Mooney would have been an employee of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools did not respond to a request to confirm Mooney's current employment status, but she is listed as an officer of the Alberta Teachers' Association union local that represents teachers employed by the Red Deer Catholic board.

Pro-Choice Coalition 'surprised' 

Abortion rights advocates in Alberta expressed surprise at Mooney's past comments but said they aren't concerned about the candidate or the New Democratic Party's commitment to women's health services.

​"I think most voters would be surprised to see someone attending a March for Life now running for a government that does not support the use of school time for that kind of event," said Kathy Dawson, with the Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition.

While Dawson said she does not support Mooney's past comments, she is confident in the NDP's candidate selections.

"It's not a great comment [but] we're confident that the vetting process with the NDP will be sufficient to weed out any anti-choice candidates," said Dawson.

NDP open to anti-abortion views, but not actions

Education Minister David Eggen has previously expressed opposition to teachers bringing students to the March for Life. 

"I don't believe protesting women's fundamental rights is a good use of student time," Eggen said in May.

Students, many bused to Edmonton from Red Deer, leave March for Life in May 2018. (Kathy Dawson/Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition)

On Friday, Notley said her party includes people with anti-abortion views, but that official policy would trump personal opinions when it came to actions in government.

"We've had candidates in the past who had different opinions on this issue," said Notley. 

"When it comes to our party's actions with respect to that issue, our party will act on the basis of a pro-choice policy."

Voters in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding cast their ballots for a new MLA on July 12.


About the Author

Anis Heydari

Video Journalist

Anis Robert Heydari has worked in jobs ranging from cleaning up oil spills to fixing phone lines, but all those roads eventually led to being a jack-of-all-trades and CBC News reporter. Reach him at anis@cbc.ca.