Girls bathe inside a U.N. base in Juba, South Sudan, March 5. CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

Canadian aid could fund abortions

  • March 10, 2016

OTTAWA - Pro-life groups charge that the federal government intends to resume funding for overseas abortions as part of its international child and maternal health program.

Those concerns were expressed after a March 7 government announcement that it will invest more than $80 million in new funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). 

Speaking on the eve of International Women’s Day, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the government “is committed to a better and more comprehensive approach to supporting the health of women in developing countries.”

“Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and empowering women and girls is central to achieving gender equality,” she said.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, the minister said none of the money is intended to fund abortions, and the matter never came up in consultations. She said the government does not oppose abortion in countries where it is legal but “we’re not promoting it right now.”

Eventually, she said, the government intends to expand the program to include “everything related to reproductive health and rights.”

However, the Globe reported that an e-mail from the minister’s office the previous week “said the inclusion or exclusion of certain health services, such as abortion, is under the purview of recipient countries, meaning Canadian development aid could be used to fund abortions.”

Campaign Life Coalition UN observer Matthew Wojciechowski said when people speak about “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” it almost always means sex education, abortion, contraception and sterilization.

“What we’re always trying to do is fight against this kind of language so it won’t be part of any agreed statement,” he said.

Wojciechowski and REAL Women of Canada national vice president Gwen Landolt view the announcement as a restoration of overseas abortion funding. Landolt pointed to a past Liberal motion to include abortion in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s maternal and child health care initiative.

With United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin at her side, Bibeau said she would provide $15.6 million towards the 2016 UNFPA budget, $5 million to the UNFPA contraceptive supplies program and $11 million over five years to the UN Population Fund to help prevent pregnancies among adolescents.

She also announced $50 million to the UNFPA to “train midwives and other frontline health care providers in South Sudan, a country which has some of the world’s worst maternal mortality rates.”

Landolt said Harper excluded abortion from his maternal and child health initiative because it was too “divisive” at home and in the countries receiving help. The program has resulted in “markedly decreased” rates of child and infant mortality, a “huge downward curve” over the past 10 or 15 years, she said. 

Using abortion and contraception that is in many cases abortifacient in trying to reduce maternal and infant mortality does not address the underlying issues, Wojciechowski said. The bigger problem is a lack of clean equipment and access to trained birthing attendants. The majority of infant and maternal deaths “have to do with a lack of basic health care,” he said.

Landolt said the programs are designed to control the populations of Third World countries, “that for cultural and religious reasons do not want it, but in order to get maternal health care help they have to put up with it. It’s 19th-century colonialism at work.”

Comments (1)

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I would hope that Debra's article about aid from Canada possibly being used to fund abortions isn't the usual "I don't want my tax dollars paying for abortions". Canadians tax dollars are spent in Ontario on religious issues of exclusion that I...

I would hope that Debra's article about aid from Canada possibly being used to fund abortions isn't the usual "I don't want my tax dollars paying for abortions". Canadians tax dollars are spent in Ontario on religious issues of exclusion that I object to strenuously.

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Hugh Vincelette
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