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There’s one thing I’ll give Stephen Harper half-credit for.

Stephen Harper has vowed that a Conservative government will never endorse anti-abortion legislation while he is in power, but he refused to disclose his personal view on abortion.

The Conservatives tried to distance themselves Thursday from remarks by Saskatchewan incumbent MP Brad Trost, who said the Tories have decided to “defund” the International Planned Parenthood Federation, an organization that provides abortions around the world.

And he’s sort of stuck to that; in the four years since that article was written, the Conservative party under his leadership hasn’t done anything to strip abortion access from Canadians. Internationally, though

we are very concerned by recent statements regarding the Government of Canada’s refusal to fund safe abortion services abroad, including in cases of rape and for young women and girls in forced marriages. This approach represents a serious setback on women’s human rights and the health and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence and girls in early and forced marriages.

… and treading water on domestic abortion in a time when our access to it isn’t all that hot isn’t a gold-medal-worthy performance. Still, when anti-abortion MPs complain about you and anti-choice groups campaign against you, you must be doing something right.

No, the problem comes when you compare the Conservatives under Harper to other parties.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says all candidates running for nomination to represent the Liberal Party in 2015 will have to support the party’s pro-choice position, but that the same rule does not apply to sitting MPs.

“I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills,” Trudeau said Wednesday following his party’s weekly caucus meeting in Ottawa.

NDP MPs will never vote against a woman’s right to choose, says the party’s leader Thomas Mulcair, who is also making clear that anti-abortion candidates are not welcome to run for the party.

Mulcair made the comments after a speech in Quebec on Thursday. He was asked by a reporter whether his party “writes off” voters who are anti-abortion, thousands of whom were on Parliament Hill Thursday at the annual March For Life.

The NDP believes that “it’s not debatable, it’s not negotiable, it is a woman’s right to determine her own health questions and her own reproductive choices,” Mulcair said.

The NDP caucus will never include MPs who are anti-choice, he added.

Stephen Harper’s response?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a shot at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s stance on abortion today when he suggested the Liberal Party is not the beacon of inclusiveness it bills itself to be.

“Ours is a big party where we understand the Canadian people have different, often conflicting views on issues like this, deeply held views — and all such views are welcome in the Conservative Party of Canada,” Harper said following an announcement in New Brunswick today. […]

The prime minister said he has no plans to reopen the abortion debate after the Liberals asked Ottawa to intervene to determine whether New Brunswick’s regulations governing access to the procedure violate the Canada Health Act.

That’s the dark side of Harper’s “no abortion debate” stance: it allows others to quietly chip away at access, out of the spotlight, while his own hands seem to be clean. It’s made worse by the strong pro-choice stance of other party leaders, ironically enough, as the Conservatives are the only party that’ll tolerate anti-choice candidates. The inevitable result:

Nearly one-third of federal Conservative candidates running in Alberta ridings have been endorsed by the controversial Campaign Life Coalition for their opposition to women’s reproductive rights, according to a report from Press Progress.

Known for its vocal anti-abortion position, the Campaign Life Coalition has taken strong positions in recent years against Gay-Straight Alliances in schools (which they describe as “homosexual-activist clubs“) and against Ontario’s new health and physical education curriculum (which they describe as ‘radical sex ed curriculum‘).

The ten Alberta Conservatives are part of a group of 86 Conservative candidates from across Canada who have received endorsements from the organization. Nine of the ten Alberta candidates on the list are men and six are incumbent MPs running for re-election (even Stephen Harper is deemed “not supportable” by this organization).

When you tolerate bigots, they find safe harbour with you. And if the Conservatives regain power, Harper will find it harder to keep them under control…