OTTAWA - Stephane Dion vowed Thursday that Liberals will block passage of a Tory bill that some fear might re-open the dormant abortion debate.

"I want to give my word to all the women of Canada that the Liberal Party of Canada is against to reopen woman's right to decide as a debate," the Liberal leader pledged.

Dion made the promise during a news conference at which he also announced that a Liberal government would create a commissioner for gender equality. The independent officer of Parliament would be tasked with analyzing the impact on women of all government programs and policies.

The "unborn victims of crime" legislation is a private member's bill proposed by Edmonton Tory MP Ken Epp, which would make it a crime to take the life of a fetus against the will of the mother.

Although the bill specifically exempts abortion, pro-choice advocates fear it would give legal status to the fetus and would, thus, be a step towards recriminalizing abortion.

Dion indicated that he shares the view that the bill would reopen the abortion debate and vowed: "We will not allow that to happen."

The NDP cast doubt on Dion's commitment to women's equality by circulating a list of 26 Liberal MPs who voted for the bill on second reading.

Virtually all New Democrat and Bloc Quebecois MPs are opposed to the bill so its fate rests with the Liberals. Dion would not specify whether Liberal MPs will be required to vote against the bill, saying the process for ensuring it doesn't pass will be decided by Liberal whip Karen Redman.

"But the point is, at the end of the process, we will not allow that to be reopened."