As abortion became a key election issue, an “independent” website of a new pro-abortion group, Women Demand Better, attacked Conservative leader Stephen Harper for his alleged pro-life position. The day after the media reported on this non-partisan and independent attack on Harper, a Vancouver paper revealed that the organization was founded by a teen with Liberal connections.
Cassandra Parlee, 17, of New Westminster, B.C., founded the group and subsequent website following comments made by Conservative candidates concerning abortion. As she stated in a press release, “The purpose of this website is to make Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party aware that their position on abortion and other women’s issues is unacceptable.”
Women Demand Better was described as a non-partisan coalition united with the common goal of protecting women’s reproductive rights and bringing awareness to Canadians of threats against this right.
The website contained 757 signatures of women and men. In addition, the website also provided viewers with quotes from supporters of Women Demand Better, explaining why they fear Stephen Harper and his “anti-abortion campaign.” As a typical example, one supporter said, “Women should have the right to determine their own lives and it should NOT be left in the hands of politicians … women deserve better.”
While the group claims to be non-partisan, there are, however, several names of Liberal activists on the supporter list. It seems, in fact, that this list may have been padded with the help of Ann Takagi, president of the Young Liberals of Canada. Takagi was a key organizer in the leadership campaign of Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2003. The Vancouver Sun reported that Takagi circulated an e-mail to her supporters urging them to sign the online petition.
Parlee concedes that she did receive the help of Takagi, through the aide of her brother Forrest, president of the Young Liberals of B.C. Other prominent Liberals on the list of supporters include Martin MacLachlan, the Liberal party legal advisor in B.C., and Christina Chan, daughter of Richmond Liberal candidate Raymond Chan.
The Conservative party interpreted this as yet another attack against Harper’s supposed social conservatism from the Liberal campaign. B.C. Conservative MP John Reynolds said that the Liberals are lying by saying Harper will remove a woman’s right to choose. “This,” he says, “is about how low they’ll go to try to maintain power.”
He continued: “When you’re in deep trouble in an election campaign, you try to paint the Conservative party as an ultra-right-wing Christian right party. And nothing could be further from the truth. Harper has made it very plain.”It seems, however, despite repeated reiteration on the part of Stephen Harper that he would not bring forth abortion legislation, Parlee is convinced that he will recriminalize abortion. When asked about the Liberal bias on her supporters list, Parlee responded that her website shouldn’t be viewed as partisan.