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St. Albert-Edmonton Conservative candidate must clearly state his position on women's reproductive rights

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Michael Cooper

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

St. Albert-Edmonton Conservative candidate Michael Cooper has received the full endorsement of the radical anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition for opposing women's reproductive rights.

According to the Campaign Life website, Cooper has indicated he is opposed to a woman's right to have an abortion in all circumstances -- including those in which pregnancy is caused by rape or the health or life of the mother is at risk.

When Campaign Life's endorsements of Cooper and other Conservative candidates were revealed on Thursday by political blogger Dave Cournoyer and the Press Progress news site, Conservative supporters online were quick to strike back with the claim there was nothing the 31-year-old single man could do to prevent any group from endorsing him.

However, the Campaign Life website states that, in Cooper's case, he responded to the group's questionnaire, indicating his answer was "no," to the question, "Are there any circumstances under which you believe a woman should have access to abortion?"

Unlike most of the other nine Alberta Conservatives who received Campaign Life's "green light" endorsement on the basis of their legislative voting records -- "green light means the person supports CLC principles and is rated as supportable," the site explains -- Cooper sent back the group's questionnaire on Sept. 24, 2014, shortly before he announced his intention to seek the Conservative nomination in the St. Albert-Edmonton riding.

Cooper's answers also indicate he believes life begins at conception and that, if elected, he would "support all legislative or policy proposals that would result in a meaningful increase of respect and protection for unborn human life," Campaign Life says.

The site also states, significantly, that "Cooper has been actively involved in the pro-life movement for many years and is known to CLC leaders."

Based on Campaign Life's commentary, Cooper's position on reproductive rights is considerably more extreme than those taken by most candidates for the U.S. Republican Party, which since Richard Nixon's day has become the home to the so-called pro-life position on access to abortion in the United States.

Among the current crop of Republican presidential nomination candidates, for example, only Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, who has since dropped out of the race, took a no-exceptions position on abortion that included cases of rape, incest, and where the life or health of the mother is at risk.

Cooper, who has been active in Conservative politics since his early teens, is widely believed to hold strong social conservative and libertarian views on a variety of issues important to the Conservative Party's right-wing fringe. But, if so, he has mostly been careful not to leave a written record of his opinions. There is no reference to his position on reproductive rights on his campaign website or Facebook page.

Cooper joined the Conservative Party at 14 and ran a generously self-financed, if ultimately unsuccessful, bid to become a member of St. Albert City Council when he was 19. In addition to his relationship to Campaign Life, he has worked closely on his campaign with a representative of the virulently anti-union Merit Contractors group.

But other than press clippings in which a 19-year-old Cooper, then associated with the Canadian Alliance Party, excoriated former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada prime minister Joe Clark for being too willing to collect taxes and intervene in the economy, until now the written record of the candidate's actual views has been very sparse.

For its part, Campaign Life has expanded its activism from merely opposing women's reproductive rights to opposing gay-straight alliances, transgender students' rights and sex education in schools.

No doubt Cooper would like to continue to fly under the radar of most voters in the riding on his apparently extreme position on reproductive rights. Indeed, not surprisingly, Cooper was "unavailable" to answer questions from the local newspaper.

Cooper's campaign manager, former St. Albert Mayor Richard Plain, tried to have it both ways, telling the St. Albert Gazette's reporter that Cooper's opinions are sincere but won't affect government policy. At least, that is, until they do!

Plain's bobbing and weaving notwithstanding, women's reproductive rights are too important and have potential impacts too serious for voters in this riding to permit Cooper to avoid the issue. By merit of  his responses to Campaign Life's questions, he owes residents of St. Albert-Edmonton -- of which I am one -- a clear and full explanation of his views on abortion rights.

He needs to be asked this question when he appears on residents' doorsteps, and if -- unlike many Conservative candidates in the current federal election -- he chooses to turn up at any more all-candidates' meetings. Other candidates should be asked the same questions, of course.

If Cooper continues to dodge the question, the significance of that should be obvious to voters who support the reproductive rights of all women.

Regardless, this will only be an issue if residents of St. Albert-Edmonton make it an issue.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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