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Majority backs abortion rights Add to ...

It is the debate that dare not speak its name. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he doesn't want to reopen it and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff struggles to let the word cross his lips, but a new poll shows Canadians remain largely pro-choice when it comes to abortion.

According to an EKOS survey provided exclusively to The Globe, 52 per cent of Canadians describe themselves as "pro-choice;" 27 per cent say they are "pro-life;" 10 per cent chose "neither" and 11 per cent opted for "do not know or no response."

The long-dormant abortion issue popped up earlier this year after the government announced that maternal health in the developing world would be a key priority for the G8 meetings hosted by Canada this year. This week U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton challenged the Conservative government's view that such an agenda could be addressed without including abortion as part of the options for women.

EKOS pollster Frank Graves says these Canadian numbers are virtually unchanged from 10 years ago. He also says this latest survey challenges the theory put forward by the Manning Center that Canadians are becoming more small-c conservative on social issues like abortion.

The right-leaning think tank's survey, released last month, found 60 per cent of Canadians strongly agree that abortion is morally wrong. It also concluded that the "political centre" in Canada is becoming more conservative.

The fact the EKOS poll asks the same question as one posed 10 years ago shows there is no movement on abortion, Mr. Graves says.

In his news release, the pollster hints that he is working on research that could counter the Manning Centre's theory that Canadians are becoming more conservative generally.

"We are not yet in a position to consolidate our research, but the early evidence suggests that on issues of social behaviour, the trend seems to be, if anything, in the opposite direction," he states. "When measured over time, we have found that on indicators such as same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana, and capital punishment, Canadians are becoming less conservative, not more."

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