An opinion piece written by one of the Conservative government's more socially liberal members more than a decade ago appears to make light of the health concerns of women seeking abortions and refers to one form of the procedure as "infanticide."
The article was penned by Heritage Minister James Moore, who has often publicly proclaimed his support for abortion rights, and published in a student newspaper at the University of Northern British Columbia, where he studied political science. A copy was obtained by the Liberal Party and released to media Friday.
Dated Nov. 1, 1999 and titled "The flip side of abortion extremism," the op-ed discussed legislation in the United States that proposed to ban certain types of late-term abortions.
In the piece, Mr. Moore explained then-U.S. president Bill Clinton vetoed the bill because it could not be passed with an exception allowing such abortions in cases where the health and well-being of the woman in question was at stake.
"As a woman could legally argue that her 'well being' could be self-defined as perhaps not wanting to gain weight, or not wanting to lose the use of a wardrobe," Mr. Moore wrote, such an exception would have made the legislation meaningless.
The article praised the U.S. for grappling with the issue and lamented Canada for not doing the same.
"Because of intellectual and political timidity - not to mention a crippled democratic impulse - Canada has long lost its maturity to rationally debate abortion laws," Mr. Moore wrote.
He also quoted a graphic description of a late-term abortion, which he said "straight shooters" call "infanticide," and chided reporters for their unfavourable coverage of the pro-life movement.
"There is much spoken and written about the few "extremists" in the right-to-life movement. But the vast majority of the movement's members are kindly, compassionate and peaceable people," he wrote in the article's conclusion. "It would be nice if the media, who are nothing if not diligent in documenting and deploring right-to-life extremism, could bring themselves to disapprove the cold extremism of the partial-birth abortion advocates."
Mr. Moore did not immediately respond to the Globe and Mail's requests for comment Friday evening, but in an interview with CTV News, he affirmed his pro-choice views and called the Liberals' claims "garbage" and "a lie."
He then suggested if the article was reported on by the media, he would send out a press release falsely accusing the Liberal opponent in his riding, a university student, of cheating on all his exams, CTV reported.
A Liberal spokesman said the article, despite having been written before Mr. Moore entered electoral politics, was still relevant because the Tory minister had not precisely explained why he wrote it.
"Stephen Harper has tried to say 'don't worry about an abortion debate, don't worry about a socially conservative agenda,' and now we find that one of his most moderate members has written something like this," said Brad Zubyk, the party's communications director in British Columbia. "I just want him to explain himself - if he's willing to say 'I've evolved since [I wrote the article]' then I'll accept that."
Mr. Moore is running for re-election in Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, a suburban Vancouver-area constituency.