Church leaders, pro-life MPs call Ignatieff's call for abortion ‘pathetic’

  • February 13, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - It is “astonishing” and “pathetic” that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is advocating that Canada fund overseas abortions as part of a strategy to improve health care for women and children, said Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and Calgary Bishop Fred Henry.

The bishops were responding to statements made by the opposition leader after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada, as president of the G8, would champion an international initiative to bring basic health care to mothers and children in the world’s poorest countries. Ignatieff declared his party would only support the initiative if Harper’s measures included provisions for abortion and contraception.

“It is astonishing that the leader of the opposition, Mr. Michael Ignatieff, has issued an official statement advocating contraception and abortion as fundamental elements in addressing this important issue,” said Collins in a Feb. 4 statement. “There are many fruitful ways to improve maternal and child health, and the discussion should centre on the most effective strategies for doing this.”

Henry said Ignatieff’s comments were “incredible” and that he was alienating religious people.

“I thought it was pathetic for a political leader to suggest that abortion is somehow tied to the health of women and children,” Henry told the National Post.

Ignatieff sparked the uproar by telling a group of Liberal MPs and representatives from about 50 non-governmental organizations in Ottawa that Harper’s foreign health initiative must include an investment in “the full gamut of reproductive health services, and that includes termination of pregnancy and contraception.”

Harper’s proposal neither excluded nor included abortion and contraception. Development Minister Bev Oda said she is studying the issue. The United States has had policies to not fund abortions overseas, but CIDA has contributed money to pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood.

Writing in the Toronto Star, Harper said he wants Canada to champion a major, international initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world’s poorest regions. He said an estimated 500,000 women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth and nine million children die before their fifth birthday.

“Experts claim as many as 80 per cent of these deaths are easily preventable,” wrote Harper. “There is a pressing need for global action on maternal and child health.”

Ignatieff said this issue was the “last place to start playing politics,” but also said: “We’ve had a pro-choice consensus in this area (abortion) for a couple of generations and we want to hold it.”

Collins said it was sad to see Ignatieff make such a negative proposal “when there are so many other steps that can be taken to promote maternal and child health throughout the world.” He said Ignatieff’s position “in no way serves to improve the health of mothers or children” but only serves to “imperil the most vulnerable among us.”

Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus chair MP Rod Bruinooge said he is disappointed that Ignatieff made abortion “a primary foreign policy plank.”

“It seems Mr. Ignatieff wants to push this extreme abortion agenda on the developing world,” the Winnipeg South MP said. “Speaking as an indigenous person, I know that for many indigenous people around the world the unborn are sacred.”

Ignatieff also has received a negative response from some members of his own caucus. Liberal MP John McKay, a pro-life evangelical responsible for outreach to religious voters, had no comment. However, Liberal MP Paul Szabo told that no consensus had been reached before Ignatieff made his comments.

“I am a pro-life MP and there are many of my colleagues in the Liberal caucus who will protect the unborn in their decisions as Parliamentarians, and should matters come before the House they will continue to act accordingly,” Szabo said.

“I understand that this is a very serious issue,” Ignatieff said. “I respect liberty and freedom of conscience, especially freedom of religious conscience.”

Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas said Ignatieff did not consult the Liberal Caucus or its two dozen or so pro-life MPs. Instead he consulted with his pro-abortion women’s caucus. “He’s become a mouthpiece for them.”

Canadian Physicians for Life warned against exporting a mass abortion culture to countries that lack basic health services. “Let us not use the deeply divisive issue of abortion to deny vulnerable women and children the basics of life that they both need and deserve,” said the group’s president Dr. Will Johnston in a release.

(With files from Deborah Gyapong, CCN.)

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