A women's rights group is charging that the Harper government has cut funding for 11 women's groups in the last two weeks, just prior to June's G8 summit at which maternal health to a key part of the agenda.

Kim Bulger, executive director of Match International, said her group was one of the groups to lose funding.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said the group's funding was cut due to performance issues.

The funding cuts were revealed a day after Conservative Sen. Nancy Ruth advised a gathering of women's groups that they risk a backlash from the government unless they "shut the f--k up" on the abortion issue. She said she fears there will be more of an anti-abortion response from her party if women's groups continue to speak out.

"If you push it, there will be more backlash," Ruth said. "This is now a political football. This is not about women's health in this country."

Bulger blamed the funding cuts on the "ideologically driven" Conservative agenda against feminist groups who support funding abortion as part of maternal health initiatives in developing countries.

The government announced last week that it will only fund family planning, but not abortion, in its new policy.

During question period Tuesday, Liberal MP Bob Rae said Ruth's comments are part of the "culture of intimidation and bullying" used by the Tory government to quiet their critics.

"If you have a disagreement with the government, just shut the F up," is how Rae characterized his political opponents' style.

Transport Minister John Baird said the government disapproved of Ruth's comments.

"The language is unacceptable and in no way, shape or form represents the views of the government," he said

But Baird replied that the Liberals were trying to start a "culture war" by opening the divisive abortion issue.

"Canadians don't want to drag the abortion debate in the maternal health discussion," he said. "This government is focused on how to make a positive difference in the lives of mothers and newborn children in the developing world."