The federal NDP released its 2019 campaign platform during the provincial wing’s Ontario convention in Hamilton June 13-15. Among the promises to invest in health care and fight climate change, is a section on “The courage to do what is right,” with a subsection on gender equality. Among the items listed is a commitment to increase support for abortion.

The platform reads: “New Democrats believe in respecting peoples’ rights to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives. Yet many individuals seeking abortion services in Canada can’t access them. Only one hospital in six offers abortion, and some provinces refuse to cover the cost of surgical abortion outside hospitals. Lack of access is even worse for people in rural areas and the North.” And: “Everyone deserves safe, accessible abortion and reproductive health care services – no matter where they live or how much money they make. It’s not enough for elected officials to say that they won’t reopen the abortion debate – we need leaders to take action to improve access to services. New Democrats will enforce the Canada Health Act to make sure that the provinces make medical and surgical abortion available in all parts of the country, without barriers. We will also ensure that a full range of prescription contraceptive and reproductive health care options are easily accessible at no cost through Medicare and our national pharmacare program.”

After the convention, party spokesman Melanie Richer told journalists an NDP government is willing to withhold federal healthcare funding for provinces with barriers to abortion. “In order for the provinces to get money,” from Ottawa, Richer explained, “they need to comply with the Canada Health Act.” She added that “The NDP will enforce the Canada’s Health Act to make sure that the provinces make medical and surgical abortion available in all parts of the country, without barriers.”

In recent months, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet have been attacking Andrew Scheer for not expelling pro-life MPs as a sign that the Conservative leader will break his promise not to reopen the abortion issue. The Liberals also attacked American state-level pro-life laws and sent out fundraising emails promising to defend so-called abortion rights in Canada.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jeff Gunnarson told The Interim“that the NDP seems to be playing catch-up to Trudeau on abortion” and said their highlighting the issue shows they have “nothing to offer so they give this a shot.”

In May, the NDP issued a press release stating: “The NDP is a pro-choice party. Each and every one of my colleagues agrees – women should have the right to make their own decisions in matters of health. Our position is clear and unequivocal, and this is an opportunity for other Parliamentarians to take a stand.” At the same time, NDP MP Niki Ashton (Churchill) tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on Parliament to recognize “a woman’s right to choose abortion is a fundamental question of equality and human rights, both in Canada and around the world.”

Gunnarson said there is no such right in Canada and that efforts to enshrine abortion in international agreements at the United Nations have proven highly contentious.