Anti-abortion group's pick for premier clarifies remarks

The first choice of an anti-abortion group for Saskatchewan's new premier is clarifying his remarks to include rape victims among those who would warrant an exception to his stance on abortion.

Sask. Party leadership hopeful Ken Cheveldayoff says sexual assault victims should be able to choose abortion

Sask. Party leadership candidate Ken Cheveldayoff says in some circumstances abortions are necessary, including for victims of sexual assault or when a woman's life is in jeopardy. (CBC)

The first choice of an anti-abortion group for Saskatchewan's new premier is clarifying his remarks on the issue.

Ken Cheveldayoff told the group Right Now — which ranked the six Saskatchewan Party leadership candidates on its website — that he believes life begins at conception. He said he was opposed to abortion in all cases, unless the woman's life was in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, Cheveldayoff told CBC he would support abortion only in "exceptional circumstances." Asked if he would consider a victim of rape who becomes pregnant an exceptional circumstance, he said: "No, like I said in the article, the life of the mother would be where I would draw the line."

On Thursday, Cheveldayoff spoke to reporters to clarify his position.

"When the life of the mother is in jeopardy, we must pause to consider the individual circumstances. 'In jeopardy' is reflective of many factors and age levels, not always health-related," he said.

"To speculate beyond this is impossible. Let me be very clear, I believe that any victim of sexual assault has the right to make a choice to have an abortion or not."

Cheveldayoff also said he would not introduce any legislation to limit abortion himself or suggest the province stop paying for abortion services.

"The status quo would continue unless our caucus has chosen otherwise," he said. "So the status quo would continue."

The Opposition NDP asked the premier to weigh in on the issue during question period on Thursday.

Brad Wall said he was not contemplating any change.

"Mr. Speaker, the policies of the government of Saskatchewan related to this matter, that is largely a federal one, have not changed since our election 10 years ago and there's no contemplation of a change," he said.

Sask. NDP leader Nicole Sarauer said she hopes his would-be successors are listening.

Personal beliefs

Meanwhile, candidate Rob Clarke has also clarified his former statement that First Nations people do not believe in abortion.

"These are my own personal beliefs," he told reporters. "Am I going to legislate anything forward? No. I'm going to leave it up to the legislature."

Clarke said it's the duty of each MLA to talk to their constituents about the issue and bring their wishes back to Regina.

"If someone wants to bring up a private member's bill, it'll be a free vote," he said. "What I'm going to make sure I do is get out there and ask their constituents what they want."

As a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and someone who was adopted out during the Sixties Scoop, Clarke said the issue is personal for him.

"Myself, I wouldn't be here today," he said. "I was adopted."

Another leadership candidate, Scott Moe, issued a written statement to say although his personal views are "pro-life," as premier he would continue with the government's position and "would not introduce any legislation on abortion."

Pro-choice candidates

Two other leadership candidates, Gord Wyant and Tina Beaudry-Mellor, have said they are pro-choice.

On Thursday, candidate Alanna Koch took to social media to say she supports a woman's right to choose.