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A new poll suggests Canadians overwhelmingly support providing contraceptives to the world's poorest women but they're not so sure about abortion.

The Harris-Decima survey conducted for The Canadian Press comes amid debate over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to champion maternal and child health in developing countries during the coming G8 summit.

The poll indicates fully 74 per cent believed the plan should include government funding for contraception; only 21 per cent were opposed.

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But respondents were almost evenly split as to whether Mr. Harper's initiative should include funding for abortion services, with 48 per cent opposed and 46 per cent in favour.

Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg says the poll helps explain why the government has clarified it's willingness to include contraception in the plan but has so far refused to be pinned down on the abortion question.

The telephone survey of 1,008 Canadians was conducted March 18-21 and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The government's intention with respect to abortion got even murkier Tuesday.

Conservatives opted to vote against a Liberal motion that called on the government to include "the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options" in Mr. Harper's G8 initiative.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda called the motion a "transparent and divisive" attempt to reopen the abortion debate, which she stressed the government has no intention of doing. When asked specifically if the initiative will include funding for abortion, she suggested the government is "not closing any options."

The government's position has evolved considerably since last week when Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon asserted that Mr. Harper's plan would not include family planning "in any way, shape or form."

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Mr. Gregg said the government seems to have revised its position in accordance with its core support base.

The poll suggests Conservative supporters are just as likely to agree with funding contraception as supporters of other parties.

But they were most likely to be opposed to funding abortion in developing countries, by a margin of 61 to 33 per cent. A majority of all other party supporters supported abortion funding - 55 per cent of Liberals, 65 per cent of New Democrats, 60 per cent of Bloc Quebecois and 54 per cent of Greens.

"Clearly the climb down or the revised position now corresponds much more closely to their [Conservative]support base," Mr. Gregg said in an interview.

The pollster said the Liberals have cleverly tried to smoke the government out on the abortion front, knowing that any time Tories are forced to confront social conservative issues, "they alienate the mainstream, and especially women."

Still, Liberals have to be careful since 40 per cent of the Grit supporters oppose funding abortions and a number of Liberal MPs are passionately pro-life.

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