Labor denounces ‘disgusting smear campaign’ on abortion in Australia’s most marginal seat

A Labor MP in Australia’s most marginal electorate has condemned a “disgusting smear campaign” from an anti-abortion group backing the Coalition which claims the opposition wants to enact an “extreme abortion agenda”.

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman says the ALP has “no proposals” to change the law around access to terminations as she faces a concerted campaign from pro-life group Cherish Life for the second election in a row.

But the Queensland-based organisation – which is urging its supporters to vote for conservatives George Christensen, Amanda Stoker and Matt Canavan – has refused to back down, stating “it is not a smear campaign, it is simply the truth”.

“Access to terminations is regulated at a state level and arrangements are well settled,” Templeman told Guardian Australia. “There are no proposals to change things on either side of politics.”

Cherish Life – formerly known as Right to Life Queensland – said it was campaigning to “keep pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia MPs and parties out of government”.

Despite being based in Queensland, the group has distributed political flyers in the Nueva Gales del Sur seat of Macquarie, claiming Labor planned to “pay for more abortions, even late-term abortions of healthy babies of healthy mothers” and that Templeman was “in full support of her party’s extreme abortion agenda”.

En 2019, Cherish Life distributed flyers in several key marginal electorates, including Macquarie, claiming “more babies would die under a Bill Shorten Labor government” and accusing Labor of an “extreme late-term abortion agenda”.

los 2022 flyers cite as evidence a passage in del trabajo 2021 national platform on “sexual and reproductive health” which notes the party wants to “expand service provision in the public system”.

sin embargo, this section refers broadly to reproductive health and contraception, not only abortion. The passage notes Labor “supports the rights of individuals to make decisions regarding their reproductive health” including “to continue with their pregnancy”.

The party’s platform states Labor “commits to expanding access to sexual and reproductive health care including contraception and termination as well as pregnancy and postnatal care” along with “other support services”.

Cherish Life, que tiene 10,000 followers on Facebook, is advocating that supporters “put Labor last”.

Macquarie, around the Blue Mountains area west of Sydney, is the most marginal seat in Australia, held by Labor on a margin of just 0.2%. Templeman won in 2019 by just 371 votos, despite the anti-abortion campaign targeting areas of the electorate with relatively high religious populations.

“This is nothing but a disgusting and factually incorrect smear campaign,” she said on Tuesday.

Labor sources said they were not aware of the flyers being distributed in any other electorates outside Macquarie.

But Cherish Life’s executive director, Teeshan Johnson, said the group stood by its claims. She hit back at Labor’s criticism and said her organisation planned to target other electorates with similar material.

“It is not a smear campaign, it is simply the truth,” Johnson said.

“The Cherish Life campaign is completely factual. What is ‘disgusting’ is Labor’s national ‘free abortions up to birth for any reason’ mission, aided and abetted by the many Emily’s Listers, like Susan Templeman in the Labor ranks. People like Ms Templeman with extreme pro-abortion views are unfit to govern.”

Johnson said Cherish Life was working in “a number of electorates” beside Macquarie.

Stoker, the assistant attorney general and assistant minister for women, addressed Cherish Life’s event March for Life in Brisbane on 29 abril, saying she wanted to “build a culture of life”.

“It baffles me that some people have questioned whether I am an appropriate person to serve as assistant minister for women because I am pro-life. They suggest there is some conflict between the roles," Stoker said at the time.

“But there is no conflict in wanting to support women and the most vulnerable in our community.”

Asked about Stoker’s attendance at the rally, el primer ministro, Scott Morrison, said in early May, “It’s a free country.” Guardian Australia contacted Stoker’s office for comment.

Cherish Life states on its website it has “no political alignment or affiliation”. Johnson has posted photos on Facebook of herself dressed in a shirt bearing the branding of Coalition MP Bert van Manen and handing out LNP how-to-vote cards in 2019.

On its website, Cherish Life recommends supporters vote in the Senate for One Nation candidate and former LNP member Christensen, and Coalition senators Canavan and Stoker. In the lower house, Cherish Life praises Katter’s Australian party as “the highest-ranking party for life, followed by One Nation”, but singled out LNP members Luke Howarth and Terry Young as being “strong and consistent pro-life [politicos]".

Canavan, who also attended the March for Life, told Guardian Australia: “I think we need more funding [por] hospitals so [nosotros] can reduce waiting times for crucial surgeries not abortions.”

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