My conservative friend (small c) Kelly McParland over at the National Post has taken some issue with my post yesterday on the Conservative government’s decision to no longer include access to safe abortion (he doesn’t weigh-in on their also pulling contraceptives) from their otherwise laudable (and not at all political) push to improve maternal and fetal health in developing countries.
Even for Liberals, though, this is appalling stuff. The government proposes a program to help improve health care for impoverished women, and the Liberals try to turn it into a question of abortion politics.
So just what is the Liberal plan, then? If some impoverished country refuses to guarantee abortion rights, they get nothing? Jeez, way to go Michael Ignatieff! Cut off the needy unless they toe the line with Liberal party values. That's Harvard thinking all right. Or maybe it's Yale thinking, because didn't Bush go to Yale?
Yeah, what? No. It would seem what we have here is a failure to communicate. I only went to Carleton myself (the Harvard of Ottawa South), I don’t know where Kelly studied, but it needn’t have been Cambridge to see that’s not at all what we’re talking about. And I don’t know who is.
Let me break down what we are talking about -- slowly, with Carleton-level words, and bullets – so we can move the debate onto non-fictional grounds and carry on from there with a degree of rationality.
- There are many factors that contribute to maternal and fetal health. Poverty. Access to medical services. Food and water. Education. Proper natal care.
- Part of that is access to contraceptives. Contraception is an important part of family planning. Access to contraceptives is lacking in many poor and undeveloped countries, leading to larger families that are unable to care for them, prolonging the cycle of poverty. That’s why providing access to contraceptives to give these women options and choice is important to improving maternal health.
- So is access to safe abortion services. The fact is, many women will seek access to abortion services, whether it is safely available or not. Forcing them into backalleys and unsafe environments leads to injuries and death, and is a major detriment to maternal health in developing countries. That’s why experts agree giving women the option and choice to access safe abortion services is important to improving maternal health.
- No one is talking about forcing abortions or condoms on anyone. The law and regulations of the host country are obviously the final word. And no one is talking about denying funding to countries that don’t allow abortion. We’re saying it should (continue to) be part of our programs in those countries where it is permitted.
Back to the politics, there is one fundamental fact that Kelly seems to have overlooked, and it exposes his Liberal wedge argument as ridiculous: all Ignatieff and the Liberals are doing is calling for the current policy of the Government of Canada to be continued and respected.
That’s right. Today, as part of its development initiatives in developing countries around maternal and child health, Canada funds access to abortion and contraceptive services in those countries where it’s legally permissible. That’s a policy that predates the Liberal government by the way, because the experts in the field say it’s important and effective and necessary. We think that should be continued.
The wedge is coming from Stephen Harper, Bev Oda and the Conservatives. The Conservatives want to change that policy. Indeed, they have admitted that they are changing the policy, and will no longer include funding for abortion and contraception as part of our development policy and funding for maternal and child health.
I oppose that change. So does Michael Ignatieff, experts in maternal and child health, and millions of Canadians.
And that change isn’t some figment of our fevered Liberal imaginations. Just ask the anti-abortion groups claiming credit for reversing the government policy and raising donations for the Conservatives in gratitude.
It is a conscious decision by the Conservative government, an apparent sop to their socially conservative base, and one that has nothing to do with their stated goal of improving the lot of women in developing countries, and everything to do with their ideological and political views.
Now, you can argue abortion is wrong, and that’s a perfectly legitimate debate to have. My own view is I support a woman’s right to choose, up to a certain point in pregnancy or if her life is at risk, but I think we should all work to make abortion as rare and unnecessary as possible.
It is, however, the law of the land in Canada. And I have no indication the Conservatives want to change that law for Canadians. So I don’t think we should deny funding for something that is legal in Canada and legal in the host country and effective with the stated goal of the program, merely on ideological grounds.
That’s what we’re talking about here. Not invented bogeymen, or Ivy League potshots.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers