Ontario Tories' leadership candidate Doug Ford opens controversial abortion debate
Ford questions why teenagers need notes to go on school trips but not for abortions.
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Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Doug Ford waded into the abortion debate Monday, questioning why teens need notes from their parents to go on school trips but not to terminate a pregnancy.
The comments follow Ford’s interview with a pro-life publication in which he said it’s time to reconsider whether girls under 16 should require parental permission for abortions, a stance that quickly drew fire from both inside and outside the party.
“I can’t think of a more life-changing procedure for a young woman than an abortion,” Ford told Right Now in an online question-and-answer session as party members have until Friday noon to vote for a replacement for ousted former leader Patrick Brown.
“I think that this is an important discussion to have and I would welcome any member who wanted to bring it forward in the Legislature to do so,” added Ford, who has four daughters.
He elaborated Monday during a campaign stop in London.
“My friends, you have to give a note to your kids when they’re 12 and 13 years old to go on a field trip. You have to approve even getting their tonsils out, but you don’t have to approve and keep secret with a 12- and 13-year-old?” Ford said in a reference to abortion.
“I don’t know too many parents that would approve any of their kids going on a field trip without their knowledge. I don’t see anyone ever approving an operation on their children when they’re 12- and 13-years-old without approval,” he continued.
“I don’t know why politicians are afraid to talk about this,” added Ford, a one-time Toronto city councillor and brother of late Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
Liberal MPP Deb Matthews, who is co-chair of the Liberal re-election effort for the June 7 provincial election, said Ford is wading into “divisive social conservative issues.”
“This is something that was resolved a long time ago. If a woman is under age 16 she and her physician can talk about it and the physician makes the decision about whether or not the parents should be involved,” Matthews (London North Centre), said at Queen’s Park.
“He wants to win the leadership, so just like Patrick Brown did he is appealing to that particular group of members and not thinking about the entire province of Ontario. I think it’s despicable what he’s doing.”
Although Ford said elsewhere in the Right Now interview that he would not “reopen the abortion debate,” the rival leadership campaign of former MPP Christine Elliott accused him of “erratic” behaviour.
“We’re seeing Doug Ford become more and more desperate,” said Tory MPP Todd Smith, a co-chair of Elliott’s effort to take the job she failed to win in two previous leadership campaigns in 2009 and 2015.
Both Ford and Elliott have promised MPPs could vote freely on matters of conscience, which would include any abortion issues.
New Democrat MPP Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe) indicated her party is not concerned by Ford’s remarks on abortion in the leadership race also being contested by Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and anti-sex ed activist Tanya Granic Allen.
“It’s up to the Conservative party to get their house in order,” she said. “It’s not up to the NDP to worry about what the Conservatives are doing.”
The victor of the leadership race will be announced Saturday afternoon at a Markham hotel after the votes of party members are tallied.
With some PC members still waiting to receive their online voting codes, Ford implored party officials to extend the voting another week.
“The party has to step up and correct this issue,” he said. “The system we have is a broken system.”
Voting, which was supposed to end Thursday, has already been extended to Friday noon.
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