Federal New Democrats have blasted Justin Trudeau as a "part-time supporter" of a woman's right to choose for lending his support to Liberal cousins in Prince Edward Island.
Trudeau joined P.E.I. Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan at a rally in Summerside on Thursday. Trudeau has made a point of publicly supporting other Liberal leaders in provincial elections, including Nova Scotia's Stephen McNeil, Ontario's Kathleen Wynne, and New Brunswick's Brian Gallant.
However, in a "reality check" statement posted to the NDP website this week, Trudeau was accused of not delivering on past "high-profile statements" supporting abortion rights by endorsing MacLauchlan.
Women in P.E.I. must obtain a doctor's referral and then travel to a hospital or clinic off the island to obtain an abortion. Though the procedure is covered by the province, the travel costs involved are not.
According to P.E.I.'s Abortion Rights Network, some physicians on the island offer limited access to a medical abortion — in which a pregnancy is terminated through drugs, not surgery — if a woman is less than nine weeks from her last period.
P.E.I. NDP Leader Mike Redmond has pledged to build a women's health centre that will provide abortions on the island, if elected. But at a debate on women's issues Tuesday, MacLauchlan said he favours the status quo.
"As a small jurisdiction there are a number of medical procedures, including abortion, that are provided and funded on an out-of-province basis, and we wouldn't see that part changing," he said. "But we'd be actively interested to address the issues that are of concern."
P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Leader Rob Lantz also said the issue was not on his agenda.
In October, CBC News reported that the province's Liberal health minister shelved a proposal to provide abortion services in P.E.I. It was estimated that providing the service on the island, rather than paying for abortions to be performed elsewhere, would save taxpayers $37,000 a year.
Federal New Democrats say Trudeau's endorsement of P.E.I. Liberals flies in the face of his words that "the days when old men get to decide what a woman does with her body are long gone."
"He claims his party 'defends rights,' yet fails to do so," the statement reads.
"Will Mr. Trudeau stand by his convictions and tell Wade MacLauchlan that women's right to choose is non-negotiable, or does he support this anti-choice Liberal policy? Canadians deserve better."
Trudeau announced last spring that no new anti-abortion candidates would be allowed to run for the Liberals in the next federal election. Incumbent Liberal MPs who oppose abortion can re-offer, but must vote in favour of a woman's right to choose if the matter again comes before the House of Commons.
At a speech in Toronto last month, Trudeau said that for Liberals, "the right of a woman to control her body is more important than the right of a legislator to restrict her freedom with their vote."
His pro-choice edict spurred two anti-abortion groups to embark on a cross-Canada tour — dubbed "#No2Trudeau" — targeting the Liberal leader.
Grit MPs and candidates fired back on social media with a "#Yes2Trudeau" campaign, in which they lauded the party's stance.
Liberals also shared a clip of Trudeau discussing reproductive rights, with a promise to "never back down" from the commitment to protect a woman's right to choose.
P.E.I. voters go to the poll on May 4.