I'm continually bemused as to why.
The latest contribution to my bemusement on this subject is an article on how he has been supporting his female Chief of Staff's efforts to conceive using IVF!
Abbott on life issues: a failing mark
In an article in Marie Claire magazine that appears to be yet another attempt to overcome Abbott's low standing with female voters, Ms Credlin apparently claims that Mr Abbott supports abortion, contraception and IVF:
"According to reports on Sunday, Ms Credlin told Mr Abbott: ''I will just never agree with you on abortion. I think you are opposed to it, desperately opposed to it, and you would ban it if you could.''
Mr Abbott replied: ''Well, that's just bullshit. I believe it should be safe, legal and rare.''
Mr Abbott, who is a Catholic, also told her he strongly supported IVF and did not oppose contraception.
And he has apparently been supportive of her own efforts, even to allowing her to store fertility drugs in the Office fridge....
The official Church position on IVF is that it is not permitted, even within marriage, and even where no third party donation is involved, because, amongst other things, the procedure inevitably separates procreation from the conjugal act, and almost invariably involves the destruction of fetuses in the process. You can read the full details of the arguments here in the official Vatican document, or read the Queensland Bioethics Centres' explanation of it here.
So I'm waiting (without any great expectation) for his bishop, Cardinal Pell, to publicly correct him on this subject...
Abbott's patchy record
I can perfectly understand conservatives (or indeed anyone's) desperation to find an alternative to the Gillard regime.
And it's not like the alternative contenders within the Liberal-National coalition (or Labor for that matter) are any better on these issues.
It is also true that as Health Minister under PM Howard Abbott took some positive steps, for example in funding genuine pregnancy support services and fighting the good fight on RU 486.
But as the ABC's Chris Uhlmann (who has strong pro-life credentials), has pointed out, when it comes to a perceived choice between getting elected and compromising his faith, Abbott chooses electoral expediency every time.
Commenting on David Marr's Quarterly Essay on Abbott, Uhlmann rejects the claims of those like Gerald Henderson that Marr's anti-Catholicism prejudices led to an unfair portrayal of Abbott's religious views. Uhlmann argues, correctly in my view, that looking at the effects of Abbott's faith on his politics is perfectly legitimate:
"It's perfectly reasonable for Tony Abbott's political life to be informed by his Catholicism; many Greens are informed by a modern take on pantheism and no one seems troubled by that. And it's arguable that some of his best political impulses are those shaped by a rich tradition of theology and philosophy. It was therefore essential for Marr to examine the Opposition leader's faith, because it is impossible to understand Tony Abbott without it."
Uhlmann argues though that Marr missed the real issue:
What should have been the talking point of the essay is the glaring fault-line Marr draws between Tony's faith and Abbott's ruthless pragmatism. Tony's better angels have ever been at war with Abbott's earthly ambitions, a tension that appears even in his decision to train for the priesthood at St Patrick's College, Manly. Why? "He wanted to be Archbishop of Sydney," Father Michael Kelly told Four Corners in 2010. Given the church leadership's immersion in the darker arts of politics for nearly 2000 years, Father Kelly might have added St John Chrysostom's observation that, "The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops."
Tony is guided by Christ's distillation of the law: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Abbott is driven by a parody of that dictum coined by another Catholic politician, James Curley, the three-time Boston mayor: "Do others, or they will do you."
In short, Abbott looks much more like those US Democrats who claim to be Catholic yet seem to think that doesn't actually require them to oppose abortion or defend religious freedom for those who actually do adhere to the teachings of the Church than he does a genuine conservative Catholic.
Can a politician win by standing up for truth?
The problem for Catholic politicians of actually standing up for the truth on life issues is that most of them think that they will get elected despite their pro-life views rather than because of them. They may well be right, though there is some counter-evidence for example in the last Victorian State election.
Yet I think Abbott's problem actually lies more in the perception that there is a disjunction between his real views and what he says publicly than in what his views actually are.
If a politician actually stood up and said 'I oppose abortion because I oppose killing babies and hate what it is doing to women and our society', there are many feminists who would attack him or her viciously.
But I think many more Australians would respect the integrity of their views, even if they didn't agree with them.
They might even still vote for them. Former PM John Howard, after all, was re-elected even after leading the fight for gun reform against the views of much of his own constituency.
And what's the point of being in politics at all if you aren't prepared to fight for a better society? If Catholic politicians aren't prepared to fight the good fight on these issues, then it really does become hard to escape Uhlmann's conclusion that they are just in it out of naked ambition...