Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott announced last week he supports in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and never sought to restrict abortions as health minister.
In an opinion piece in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Abbott said he never sought to restrict access to the morning-after-pill or sought to prevent the importation of RU486 – a drug that can terminate a pregnancy up to nine weeks.
He also praised his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, for speaking out about her difficult experience trying to conceive with IVF, saying he had never opposed IVF treatment.
“A minister’s job is to implement the policy of the government and to administer departmental programs,” he said in the article.
“It is not to make moral decisions for people.”
Ms Credlin, who recovered from a fifth “failed” IVF cycle late last year, told women’s magazine Marie Claire Mr Abbott was supportive of her decision to try IVF and offered to store her fertility drugs in his parliamentary fridge.
Labor responded to Mr Abbott’s opinion piece suggesting the Liberal Party was trying to improve female voters’ perception of him.
But Mr Abbott said it was important people understood where he stood on issues such as IVF.
The Catholic Church’s has officially stated it is opposed to IVF because it deliberately destroys and experiments upon embryos.
Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne said Mr Abbott was extraordinarily supportive during the five years he and his wife went through IVF, which led to the birth of their twins Barnaby and Eleanor in 2000.
Mr Pyne said Mr Abbott felt the Catholic Church’s teachings on IVF were “misguided” and there was nothing more important or exciting than the birth of children.
Mr Abbott is well-known to be a practising Catholic and has, in the past, received the ire of some Catholics for his policies on asylum seekers and Aboriginal affairs.
Mr Abbott also defended comments he made in 2004 about abortion while he was the Minister for Health.
He described abortion as an “easy way out” for people with unwanted pregnancies.
“What I said in 2004 was that abortion should be safe, legal and rare,” Mr Abbott said. “I think that’s the way it should be.”
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said Mr Abbott’s views on abortion were on the record and if he had changed his mind he would have to convince the public.
Abortion is currently legal in every state in Australia, except New South Wales and Queensland where it is a crime unless doctors believe the woman’s health is in serious danger.
In Western Australia, an abortion is legal up to 20 weeks but some restrictions apply to girl under 16.
Further restrictions apply to abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortions after that time must be approved by a medical panel appointed by the Western Australian health minister.