Erin O’Toole is still not pro-choice

For immediate release

NATIONAL – The abortion issue is still the “stinking albatross” around the neck of the Conservative Party leader, because about 81% of Conservative incumbents running in the federal election have been designated as anti-choice* by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), a national advocacy group. That includes party leader Erin O’Toole.

“We don’t believe Erin O’Toole is pro-choice,” said Tasia Alexopoulos, spokesperson for ARCC. “In 2016, he voted in favour of private member Bill C-225 that would have given legal personhood to fetuses. He courted anti-choice groups during his leadership campaign and owes his victory to them. He promised to allow his MPs to introduce private member bills against abortion and would guarantee a free vote, even by his Cabinet – which means such bills could pass in a Conservative majority government. If elected, O’Toole would also cancel foreign aid funding for safe abortion care and advocacy.”

O’Toole’s long-time support for a “conscience rights” law has been complicated by his recent flip-flop, when he said that doctors who refuse to provide care that they object to based on their personal or religious beliefs, such as abortion and medical assistance in dying, must refer patients appropriately.

But here’s the context: In every province and territory except Ontario, objecting doctors are not required to refer to a provider who can deliver that care. What the anti-choice movement has fought for is an amendment to the Criminal Code to give complete immunity to objecting healthcare professionals. Criminal punishments would be levied against employers who pressure healthcare professionals to do their jobs. In provincial versions of similar bills (Manitoba and Alberta), patients harmed by being refused care or a referral were prohibited from making complaints to their provincial Colleges for Physicians and Surgeons. (Manitoba’s bill passed in 2017; Alberta’s bill died in 2019). Under all such bills, doctors would be allowed to essentially abandon patients by not helping them in any way, not even with information or a referral.

“This is the harsh ‘conscience’ scheme that O’Toole signed onto by jumping on the anti-choice bandwagon,” said Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of ARCC. “His flip-flop on a referral requirement does not inspire confidence for anyone. It’s a betrayal of the anti-choice movement that got him elected as party leader, but also indicates he had little understanding of anti-choice demands to begin with. It’s likely he just didn’t care because he was only trolling for their support. And it’s the same for the pro-choice side – his past anti-abortion votes and promises mean he doesn’t understand the essential importance of reproductive rights and how basic they are to the health and Charter rights of women and transgender and non-binary people.”

Arthur said that it’s obvious O’Toole “has no interest” in the abortion issue because he’s never reached out to the reproductive rights movement to discuss how to improve access. “O’Toole is just mouthing meaningless pro-choice platitudes so he can convince the public to vote for him. It’s cynical political manipulation. His personal views on abortion are irrelevant, whatever they are. He’s shown a complete lack of integrity on this issue and cannot be trusted.”

Further information:

* Eight current Conservative incumbents are not running for re-election – six are anti-choice, one is pro-choice (Peter Kent) and one is Indeterminate (Cathy McLeod)


Joyce ArthurExecutive Director /
Directrice générale,
ARCC-CDAC, Vancouver
Carolyn EganOntario Coalition for Abortion Clinics, Torontoc.egan@sympatico.ca416-806-7985
Tasia AlexopoulosARCC-CDAC, New Brunswick 
Christopher Kaposy, PhDEthicist, Memorial University / Éthicien, Université Memorial,
St. Johns NL / T.-N.
christopher.kaposy@med.mun.ca709-864-3375 (w / bur.)
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