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Abbott on his own in Federal Cabinet over abortion

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has distanced himself from anti-abortion remarks made by Health Minister Tony Abbott, in an effort to avoid abortion becoming an election issue as it is in the USA.

Mr Abbott (pictured) told a University of Adelaide audience on Tuesday that the 100,000 abortions in Australia each year are a measure of the nation's moral health, and he's surprised Christians haven't challenged him on how he can "preside over a Medicare system which funds 75,000 abortions a year".

Mr Costello said his fellow cabinet minister - a Catholic - was expressing personal views, and not the government's.

"He is, as you know, a devoutly religious man and we respect his views for that and he was giving a personal statement on Christian views in relation to abortion," Mr Costello told radio presenter John Laws.

"It wasn't a statement on behalf of the government."

Mr Costello said abortion is a delicate area and there are big passions and terrible choices that people faced over it.

"We wouldn't want it to become one of those incendiary political issues in this country," he said. "Let's not try and turn elections on issues like that. They do in the United States, you know."

While Mr Costello confirmed there is no Budget remodelling being done in relation to abortion, Mr Abbott refused to rule out government action to curb the nation's abortion rate.

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott said the minister had been expressing his personal views on abortion in the speech to students at the Adelaide University. But she said he had "left open rather than closed off" the option of government action to deal with the issue.

"It seems to have struck a chord in the community," she said. "Let's see where the debate runs."

Abbott's abortion views not the government's: Costello (Sydney Morning Herald 17/3/04)
Liberals in dispute on abortion ( 18/3/04)

Abbott criticised over abortion remarks (SBS 17/3/04)
Costello douses Abbott's abortion views (The Age 17/3/04)
Abbott's abortion comments cause furore (ninemsn/AAP 17/3/04)
Abbott's abortion views 'his own' (Courier-Mail 17/3/04)
Abbott stirs Christians on abortion complacency (CathNews 17/3/04)
Tony Abbott: Rate of abortion highlights our moral failings (The Australian 17/3/04)
Tony Abbott - Member for Warringah
Tony Abbott MHR
Flack for Abbott after recruiting Church Resources boss (CathNews 3/3/04)
Abbott says new stem cells book goes beyond religion (CathNews 2/3/04)

18 Mar 2004