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Campaign Life Coalition hopes Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach summit is “successful and life-affirming in its results.” CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

Campaign Life expresses hopes for Maternal Health Summit

  • May 26, 2014

OTTAWA - Campaign Life Coalition hopes Prime Minister Stephen Harper's international summit May 28-30 in Toronto is “successful and life-affirming in its results,” says its Ottawa lobbyist.

The summit, entitled Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach, builds on Canada’s leadership in the Muskoka Initiative it launched in 2010 that has raised $7.3 billion from G-8 and non-G-8 countries towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal to improve the lives of mothers and children in the developing world.

“We’re excited about the initiatives that have been announced on the government web site and we support everything that will increase the well-being of women and children in developing nations,” said Campaign Life's Johanne Brownrigg. “The goals of this summit are laudable. At the same time, Campaign Life Coalition does see there is a problem with the selection of some of the partnerships.”

When Harper announced the Muskoka Initiative he promised Canada would not fund abortion in the developing world.

But Campaign Life reacted strongly when Ottawa awarded $6 million to International Planned Parenthood, Brownrigg said.

“The programmatic partners and the resource partners include many groups that seek to increase abortion services under their definition of maternal health care,” she said. “The goals of those partners actually contradict the Muskoka Initiative goals.

“We are hopeful that our Conservative government is sincere in seeking genuine health care for the women of these countries who need trained attendants, sanitation, water, medicine and competent follow up care. He has even managed to change Melinda Gates' talking points.”

Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is one of the high-profile international speakers at the summit.

“She is not insisting on abortion,” Brownrigg said. “From her there’s been no talk of reproductive rights, abortion rights. I’ve seen an absence of those euphemisms.

“We hope this isn’t just a PR exercise,” she said. “I hope it’s legit, because the goals are extraordinary and it would seem under Harper’s leadership they can actually accomplish them.”

Brownrigg said she was heartened to see MaterCare founder Dr. Robert Walley has been invited to the summit. MaterCare funds Catholic obstetricians who provide health care services in the developing world.

"Women and children in developing countries are significantly more likely to die from simple, preventable causes, due to a lack of proven, affordable and cost-effective solutions that most Canadians take for granted," said Walley in a news release announcing his participation.

Earlier in May, NDP Status of Women critic Niki Ashton introduced Motion-510 that would have the House of Commons declare a “woman’s right to choose abortion is a fundamental question of equality and human rights, both in Canada and around the world,” and would have the government “lift its policy” of refusing to fund abortion.

After Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced he would no longer allow pro-life candidates to run for his party, the New Democrats signaled they might use Ashton’s motion during regularly scheduled Opposition Day May 15. Instead, the NDP tabled a motion on cuts to the CBC.

Brownrigg monitored the introduction of Motion-510 from Ottawa, while Campaign Life Youth and Weneedalaw.ca and other groups mounted a concerted social media campaign against it.

“I think (the NDP) were seeking to outdo the Liberals in a pro-abortion stance at the same time as embarrassing the government,” said Brownrigg. “But the Conservative government is united behind the Muskoka Initiative and I suspect that motion would have failed and that would have been more embarrassing.”

The motion “still remains on the books,” and is likely to come up in January, which might make it “anti-climactic,” she said, but the NDP could bring it back earlier if they want.

On May 21, Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced the $36 million Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa program while at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. The funding will allow research in nine sub-Saharan African countries on how to resolve health care challenges facing mothers, newborns and children.

“Under Canada’s leadership, global attention and resources have been mobilized around maternal and child health issues,” Ambrose said in a statement. “I am proud that global action, triggered by the launch of the Canadian-led Muskoka Initiative, has saved countless lives and improved the health of millions of mothers, newborns and children in the developing world.”

According to the Canadian government, the number of women who die during pregnancy or child birth each year has dropped by 45 per cent since 1990, when there were 523,000 deaths as opposed to 287,000 in 2013.

The number of deaths of children under five has also fallen by 45 per cent “from nearly 12 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.”

Canada’s contribution to the Muskoka Initiative for 2010 to 2015 is $2.85 billion, with 80 per cent of those funds already disbursed.

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