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Anti-abortion activists take their message to Parliament Hill on May 13, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Anti-abortion activists take their message to Parliament Hill on May 13, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Anti-abortion activists praise Harper's maternal-health stand Add to ...

Thousands of activists rallied on Parliament Hill on Thursday calling for an end to abortion, with Tory MPs urging them to reopen the bitter debate on the issue.

The throng included hundreds of students drawn from the capital's Roman Catholic high schools. Many waved graphic signs with pictures of aborted fetuses.

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Priests, ministers, nuns and even monks were scattered through the crowd, which RCMP estimated at about 10,000 people.

The theme of this year's March for Life - the 13th of the annual demonstrations - is that abortion constitutes a crime against humanity.

But politics was also to the fore. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he doesn't want to renew the abortion debate, but he sparked an outcry when he said government money earmarked for ambitious child and maternal health programs in the Third World won't go to abortions.

That won praise from Rev. Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada.

"We support this stance of the government not to finance abortion in countries of the Third World," he said. "But we would like some more courage, some more courage to do something more in Canada in defence of the unborn."

Angelina Steenstra of a group called Silent no More echoed the Rev. Ouellet's statement: "I am pleased to see the prime minister of Canada using the resources of Canada to promote women's health by offering real concrete things to women to bring about life and to support life and to encourage life."

A group of 21 members of Parliament, 18 of them Conservatives, addressed the enthusiastic crowd.

Dean Del Mastro, an Ontario Tory, said he's ready for a renewed abortion debate in the House of Commons. "Maybe the first step is to determine when this place believes that life begins," he said. "I'm prepared to put my case forward. ... I'm prepared to have that conversation. Is the other side?"

Rod Bruinooge, a Winnipeg Tory who is president of the Commons' "pro-life caucus," said the campaign must be waged one step at a time. "In the pro-life movement I think in Canada, it's always important to take steps, small steps, to acknowledge the value of the unborn."

Jeff Watson, a southern Ontario Conservative, used the biblical phrasing of a preacher in his comments. "We can all declare that first of all we will have in Canada a culture that supports life from conception to natural death," he said. "We will see that come to pass.

"And secondly, I think we can all declare together an end to the old debate about abortion and the dawn of a new day in Canada where abortion will be unthinkable. I think we can all say amen to that."

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