Federal Politics

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Abortion question back to haunt Abbott

TONY Abbott says he will ''do more work'' with the popular Mamamia blog, which is directed at women, as he seeks to counter Julia Gillard's exploitation of the gender issue.

But his problems over gender increased on Tuesday when his battle over abortion drug RU486 returned to haunt him. He played down his unsuccessful battle to keep ministerial control over the importation of the RU486 when he was health minister. Asked about blogger Mia Freedman saying many Australian women were suspicious of him because of his decision to keep an effective ban on the drug, he said he did not do this.

''No application on the question of RU486 ever came before me,'' he said. Had it done so ''I would have dealt with it on the basis of the science and the expert advice''.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek on Tuesday night called on Mr Abbott to clarify his position on RU486 and abortion. She said as health minister he had voted in parliament to maintain his veto over the use of RU486, but he now said he didn't oppose the drug.

Mr Abbott said he had ''a lot of time for Mia'', founder of Mamamia, and was an ''avid reader'' of her weekly newspaper column.

This week Ms Gillard entertained women bloggers and journalists from websites for women during drinks at Kirribilli house.

Ms Gillard on Tuesday played down the serious bad turn for Labor in the last Newspoll for the year, in which the ALP two-party vote fell from 49-51 per cent in late November to 46-54 per cent, and the Labor vote tumbled from 36 per cent to 32 per cent.

While one factor in the Newspoll fall is seen as the strong opposition attack on Ms Gillard over the AWU affair, supporters of Kevin Rudd point to longer-term factors and say the vote is unlikely to recover.