Abbott, IVF and me: Peta Credlin speaks out

Tony Abbott's top adviser, Peta Credlin, has taken the unusual step of speaking out in a candid interview about her personal life as the latest step in the Opposition Leader's campaign to lift his image with women voters.

The normally private Ms Credlin, who is Mr Abbott's powerful chief-of-staff, has told women's magazine Marie Claire that her boss's views on abortion, contraception and IVF are far more balanced and nuanced than many people believe.

Ms Credlin, 41, also told the magazine that Mr Abbott has been deeply supportive of her efforts to conceive a child through IVF with her husband and Liberal Party federal director, Brian Loughnane, including keeping her fertility drugs in his parliamentary office fridge.

She said she quizzed Mr Abbott on his views before she agreed to work with him in 2010 and was satisfied with his answers.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, 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 also told her he strongly supported IVF and did not oppose contraception.

The latest bid to reassure Australian women about Mr Abbott's attitudes follows the entry of Mr Abbott's wife Margie into political debate - she had previously remained largely private throughout Mr Abbott's political career - as well as his sister, Christine Forster.

It is a bold step by Mr Abbott's backroom team. Chiefs-of-staff and other senior advisers rarely speak on the record to the media, particularly about themselves.

Facing an election against Australia's first female leader in Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Mr Abbott has been at pains to dispel impressions he is macho and too traditionalist in his gender attitudes.

He has faced accusations of physically intimidating women when he was a university student and of wanting to restrict abortion and women's access to the medication RU486.

A Nielsen poll from late last year gave Ms Gillard a 15-point lead among women over Mr Abbott. In the same poll, 42 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition that Mr Abbott was sexist.

Labor has tried to capitalise on the perception, seeking to portray Mr Abbott as sexist and dismissive of women.

Last year, Ms Gillard gave what has become famous as her "misogyny speech", in which she railed against the Opposition Leader's attitudes to women, making headlines around the world and winning widespread applause.

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