Britain is standing-up to the U.S. to ensure the availability of safe abortion services in the developing world and is calling on Canada to show moral leadership and follow-suit. This will be an early test for Stephen Harper's new government, and one that will provide some insight into what path he will follow in the coming months.
One of President George W. Bush's first acts back in 2001 was to re-institute the global gag rule. In short, the policy requires that any foreign organizations applying for U.S. aid must agree not to counsel or provide any information to their patients on abortion, except to advise against it, and not to provide abortions. If they do, their funding is pulled.
According to the World Health Organization 19 million women have unsafe abortions annually, and last year nearly 70,000 died from sepsis and hemorrhage. It's clear that if women don't have access to a safe abortion, they will turn elsewhere, and with often-tragic consequences.
That's why Britain has announced 3 million pounds over two years for groups that offer safe abortions and family planning. And it is calling on other countries, including Canada, to follow its lead.
Here's the question the Parliamentary Press Gallery should ask of Mr. Harper and the appropriate minister today:
"Mr. Prime Minister, alarmed by the death of nearly 70,000 women annually in unsafe abotions, the British government is defying the U.S. and its global gag rule by announcing funding for organizations in developing countries that counsel and provide abortion and family planning services, and is are calling on Canada by name to follow their lead. Will you answer Britain's call and match this funding?
The ball is in your court, Mr. Prime Minister.
Mon Feb 6, 2006 1:10 PM GMT
By Katherine Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain announced funding on Monday for safe abortion services in the developing world and urged other countries to join it, in defiance of Washington. London will give 3 million pounds ($5.3 million) over two years to support groups that offer safe abortions and family planning, replacing U.S. aid that has been withdrawn because of Washington's anti-abortion stance.