Abortion is not on Canada's maternal health plan plate

  • April 29, 2010
Prime Minister Stephen HarperOTTAWA - Canada will not include abortion in its G8 maternal health initiative, despite pressure from Opposition parties and foreign governments.

“Canadians want to see the foreign aid money used for things to help save the lives of women and children in ways that unite the Canadian people,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said April 27 in response to a question from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff who accused the government of reversing Canada’s 25-year-old “consensus” on the issue.

“We understand that other governments, other taxpayers may do something different,” Harper said. “We want to make sure our funds are used to save the lives of women and children and are used on the many, many things that are available to us and, frankly, do not divide the Canadian population.”

Ignatieff told journalists after Question Period “that position, we think, is a step backward for Canada, for women and for international maternal health.”

While hosting a meeting of G8 development ministers in Halifax, Development Minister Bev Oda said April 27 other countries may identify their own priorities, but “Canada’s contribution will not include abortion.” During a recent meeting of foreign ministers in Canada, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Minister David Miliband said any initiative must include abortion.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) and the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) praised the government’s sticking to its initial focus on maternal and child health. The government has faced continued pressure from Opposition parties to include abortion in the plan.

“I’m glad that she was firm and that she was explicit that Canada’s contribution to the initiative will not include abortion,” said CCRL executive director Joanne McGarry.

“It’s good to see that Minister Oda does not consider pregnancy as a disease,” said COLF director Michele Boulva.  

The initiative will include a wide range of possible interventions, including training health workers, nutrition and micro-nutrients, prevention of disease such as malaria, diarrhea and HIV/AIDS, proper medication, immunization, clean water and sanitation, Oda said. The minister said family planning, including contraception, may be part of the package. 

While Campaign Life Coalition has applauded the maternal health initiative since the Prime Minister announced it early this year, Campaign Life president Jim Hughes said Harper’s G8 plan is consistent with his unwillingness to open the abortion debate, even in the G8 discussions.

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