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Liberals say Abbott will pay for commitment to faith before politics

Health Minister Tony Abbott's faith-inspired decision to champion a divisive new debate over abortion may have cost him any future chance of leading the party, according to senior Liberals.

News Limited political columnist Glen Milne wrote yesterday that even some of those Government MPs who support Abbott's calls for a review of Government funding of late-term abortions concede the timing of his campaign has damaged the Government.

"These anti-abortionists are worried that Abbott's foray into morality politics has coincided with the electorate adjusting to the prospect of the Howard Government controlling both houses of parliament - a once-in-20-year event," Milne says

He says the Health Minister's new anti-abortion "crusade: comes just as Labor is trying to stir up a scare campaign, warning that an arrogant John Howard, flush with victory, will now try to push a hardline agenda through the Senate.

Abbott's internal critics say he has left the impression with voters that a winding back of a woman's right to an abortion may be part of the Government's secret Senate plans.

Abbott is a former seminarian for the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Quoting "concerned" senior Liberals, Milne contends that while no one in the Government doubts Abbott's views are heartfelt and have been reached after conscientious intellectual examination, "it is his judgment on timing that has led to serious questioning of his leadership credentials".

"Tony Abbott is a Catholic before he's a Liberal," said one senior Liberal colleague, also Catholic. "I don't think it is the role of a Liberal politician to use Liberal endorsement as a cover for bringing in a Catholic social agenda."

As a result of these concerns, Howard is expected to relegate the abortion debate to the backburner when he returns next week from leave - despite previously privately championing Abbott's conservative social views as a qualification for party leadership.

How Abbott lost chance to lead (Sunday Mail 7/11/04)

On the cusp of life and death (The Age 7/11/04)
Australia's Health Minister speaks out on abortion (Catholic News Agency 5/11/04)
Australian health minister says abortion 'stain on national character' ( Catholics 7/11/04)
Fighting over the right to choose (The Age 8/11/04)
No abortion mandate: states (The Australian 8/11/04)
No ban on abortions (Herald-Sun 8/11/04)
G-G fuels abortion row (The Age 8/11/04)
G-G urges debate on abortion, divorce and kids (The Sun-Herald 7/11/04)
Government cracks down on abortion clinics (The Sun-Herald 7/11/04)
Christopher Pearson: Abortion debate on demand (The Australian 6/11/04)
Editorial: Revisiting the abortion debate (The Age 8/11/04)
Abbott urged to think again (The Courier Mail 8/11/04)
The shifting ethics of abortion (The Age 8/11/04)
Victoria leads decline in rates (The Age 7/11/04)
Pro-life Democrats urge DNC to change its abortion position (Catholic News Agency 5/11/04)
Australia's Health Minister speaks out on abortion (Catholic News Agency 5/11/04)
Australian late-term abortions mostly for "mental health" ( 6/11/04)

8 Nov 2004