OTTAWA, Ontario, March 17, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Family planning and contraception are not included in Canada's new maternal and child health initiative, insisted Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon Tuesday.
“This [initiative] does not deal in any way, shape, or form with family planning,” he told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee. “Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives. Too many people are losing their lives on a yearly basis.”
Cannon responded to questions from NDP member of parliament John Rafferty, who claimed that the most important and cost effective way to reduce morbidity rates is family planning and contraception.
A debate over government funding for abortion and contraception overseas was sparked following Prime Minister Stephen Harper's announcement on January 27th that Canada will use its presidency of this year's G8 summit to promote the cause of maternal and child health care in the Third World. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff fuelled a national controversy by demanding funding for abortion in the plan. The Conservative government has since stated that abortion is not part of their plan.
Also in response to Rafferty, Cannon pointed out that Canada's plan has drawn praise from African leaders, who have not mentioned the issue of family planning. He explained that Leonard J. Edwards, the Prime Minister's Sherpa (personal representative) for the G8 summit, “has not had anybody say that the goal that we are pursuing is a goal that is counter to what they want to see done.”
“The issue of family planning hasn't been raised,” he continued. “Indeed, what we're doing is we're saving lives by helping people live.”
Earlier in the meeting, Cannon had highlighted the plan as Canada's “signature initiative” at the G8. “It's important to note that the statistics are shocking,” he said. “Each year, nearly 9 million children die before they turn five, and half a million women die in pregnancy and child birth. Many of these deaths can be prevented with improved access to health care, better nutrition, and scaling up proven interventions such as immunization. So this is a key Muskoka priority.”
He also noted that Canada's effort is “being very well acknowledged” by the other G8 member states.
In an interview with Canwest after the meeting, Cannon, who favours the “right” to abortion, appeared to distance himself from the government's position, but reaffirmed that position nevertheless.
“Everybody knows what my position is but from a government position, this policy, this announcement by the prime minister has nothing to do with what you're raising,” he said. An aide confirmed to Canwest afterwards that Cannon was referring to his “pro-choice” stance.
As a follow-up to his initial question about family planning in the initiative, Rafferty indicated that Canada spends millions of dollars every year on family planning, and noted specifically Canada's support for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). “Are those funds going to be secure or will you again, at the cabinet table, work to make sure that those funds are still available?” he asked.
Minister Cannon directed Rafferty to speak with the Minister of International Cooperation, Bev Oda.
IPPF's funding from the Canadian International Development Agency ran out at the end of 2009. The organization complained last month that they have still not received a response to their mid-2009 request for a funding renewal. IPPF, the world's largest abortion provider, is seeking $18 million over the next three years.
Abortion advocates fear that the delay could mean the Conservative government has decided to cease funding IPPF. They point in particular to a petition being circulated by Conservative MP Brad Trost that calls on the government to cut IPPF funding.
Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that they are pleased that the government has confirmed again its commitment to true health care. “We're pleased that another MP has stepped up to the plate and we hope that many more will follow him.”
“Other countries are looking for maternal health care, which means that the woman will be helped throughout and after the pregnancy,” she added. “I think that's obvious to everyone who's looking at it, except for Planned Parenthood and the others who are promoting their own agenda.”