Canadian government officials stated this week that their initiative to save the lives of women and children in developing nations will not include family planning supplies or services of any sort.
At a Foreign Affairs committee meeting Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said that Canada’s plan “does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning,” reported The Globe and Mail. There is speculation that government leaders are avoiding the issue of family planning and abortion in an effort to appease those across the political spectrum.
According to The Star, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda made a statement at the Commons Wednesday, “We have chosen to focus the world’s lenses on saving the lives of mothers and children. When we know what we can do by providing clean water, vaccinations, better nutrition, as well as the most effective way of the training of health care workers and improving access for those women, that is what we are going to do.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was questioned recently about inclusion of contraception and family planning in the initiative and he repeatedly responded that its only focus would be “saving lives.” Abortion issues have not been brought up directly since January, when Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff compared the proposed initiative to the “global gag rule,” which cut off US funding for organizations that provided family planning or abortion services in the developing nations, reported The Globe and Mail. The global gag rule was repealed by US President Barack Obama in 2009.
Executive Director of Action Canada for Population and Development Katherine McDonald told The Globe and Mail, “I’m very concerned that they’re equating family planning with abortion.” She believes this maternal health effort cannot succeed without empowering women to space out pregnancies, which would help prevent maternal mortality caused by too many consecutive pregnancies. According to a Feminist Majority Foundation fact sheet, 215 million women worldwide wish to either delay or prevent pregnancy, but lack access to contraceptives. In addition, 529,000 women and girls die each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth and 70,000 die from botched abortions in developing nations.
The Canadian International Development Agency stopped funding the International Planned Parenthood Federation in December, and a request for renewal of its $6 million yearly grant has reportedly been ignored, said The Globe and Mail.
Liberal Member of Parliament and physician Keith Martin told The Star that men and women have no way of protecting themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancies without the “full array” of contraception and birth control options.
“As a result, you have higher abortion rates, more disease, more maternal deaths and more maternal injuries. [Conservatives] can’t say on the one hand they want to save lives…yet on the other, deprive people of having the tools to be able to reduce the death rate. The government is slaughtering good medical practice on the altar of ideology.”