This issue makes me mad … ignorant.. ignorant.. the quotes towards the end are most poignant.
Harper government’s aid plan omits birth
Helping women abroad
doesn’t include support for family planning
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government appears to have
decided that birth control is not part of its plan to help improve the
lives of women and children in developing countries.
Opposition critics are accusing Harper of caving to his
social-conservative political base at home, at the expense of foreign
aid that makes a real difference in the well-being of women and their
‘How can a program aimed at reducing maternal mortality not allow
for any contraception as a part of the program?” NDP leader Jack Layton
said on Wednesday.
“Is Canada’s signature initiative at the G8 going to be the
For two consecutive days this week, Conservative cabinet members
have ruled out any suggestion that birth control be part of Harper’s
announced new, foreign-aid focus on maternal health for this year’s G-8
and G-20 meetings in Canada.
In the Commons on Wednesday, International Co-operation Minister
Bev Oda pointedly left birth control off the list of aid projects the
government intended to support, saying that “saving lives” was more
important than family planning.
“We have chosen to focus the world’s lenses on saving the lives of
mothers and children,” Oda said. “When we know what we can do by
providing clean water, vaccinations, better nutrition, as well as the
most effective way is the training of health care workers and improving
access for those women, that is what we are going to do.”
And on Tuesday, during a Commons committee hearing, Foreign Affairs
Minister Lawrence Cannon made clear that the maternal-health priority
“does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning.”
Liberals and New Democrats are incredulous, saying that this is a
direct copy of the foreign aid policies of former U.S. president George
W. Bush, who banned any support for aid organizations that supported
abortion in developing countries for the eight years he was in office.
Barack Obama reversed that ban within days of taking power last year.
Carolyn Bennett, MP for St. Paul’s, a doctor and former
public-health minister, said Canada is now offside with leading
international partners and aid organizations.
“They have lived this nightmare before, with George Bush, where
there is no access to condoms, no access to contraception,” Bennett
Back in January, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff demanded that
Harper clarify whether his foreign-aid priority included abortion – a
demand that Conservatives dismissed as a political play. Now, however,
it appears that neither abortion or contraception are part of the focus
on maternal health.
Liberal MP Keith Martin, also a doctor, said without providing
access to a “full array” of family planning options, women and men can’t
protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted
“As a result, you have higher abortion rates, more disease, more
maternal deaths and more maternal injuries,” Martin said.
He said he was “shocked” that the government took family planning
off the table and accused the Conservatives of being hypocritical.
“They 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,” he said.
“The government is slaughtering good medical practice on the altar
of ideology,” he said, adding that the government’s medical plan “defies
“In fact, it violates the ethics of good medical practice,” said
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca).
He said the Conservatives are seeking to strengthen political
support among their “social conservative base” with the decision not to
advocate for family planning options in developing nations.
“But they’re wasting an incredibly good opportunity to do something
really good,” he said.
(with files from Bruce Campion-Smith)