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Tuesday
Mar232010

Maternal Care and Abortion: Red Herrings and Political Footballs...

Today in the House of Commons, a motion put forward by the Opposition demanding that the Government’s child and maternal health plan cover a “full range” of family planning options, including contraception and abortion, was narrowly defeated by a vote of 144 to 138.

This is the latest in a series of attempts by the Opposition in the House and in the media to reduce what could prove a unifying and life-saving initiative to a debate about abortion in countries other than Canada. 

The EFC is fully supportive of the Government’s proposed plan of action on saving and improving the lives of women and children in developing countries. As a partner in the Micah Challenge, we firmly believe that the Canadian Government should be doing its part to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Goals 4 and 5 commit signatory nations – and Canada is one - to working toward reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health, respectively.

It is unfortunate that what is otherwise an excellent initiative – and one that could and should be something the whole of Parliament could gather around and move forward with – has been downgraded to political opportunism.

Working to protect and promote child and maternal health is not about abortion. Are there instances where termination of a pregnancy may be medically necessary to protect the life of the mother? Perhaps. But to somehow reduce the full spectrum of child and maternal health to this political “football” is just plain irresponsible.

We are talking about saving and improving lives. What about clean drinking water? Access to safe, healthy food and shelter? Ensuring that all women and their children can access medicines, quality pre and post-natal and pediatric health care? Can the elected representatives of the people of Canada not focus on the aspects of maternal care that we can all agree upon as a nation, rather than turning from a positive international initiative to a divisive and unresolved Canadian domestic issue?

Why is it that on a subject that we should be able to expect all can agree to take action, all of the good we can agree on and work toward together has been sidelined by a question Parliament has shown itself unwilling to discuss or take action on here at home?

Despite all of the politicking, we commend the government for its initiative. We can be pleased and proud that a number of  Canadian organizations, several of them affiliates of the EFC, doing excellent and important work in these areas are ready and willing to engage with the government in their efforts to improve the lives of women and children in developing countries.

Protecting and improving child and maternal health is not about abortion. It is also not about the political aspirations or ideologies of either the Government or the Opposition parties. It would be a shame if any of the four parties tried to make it so.

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