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Maternal Health and Child Care – Will the Pro-Life Community cooperate with the Pro-Choice Community to Derail a Life-Saving Initiative?

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 13% of maternal deaths are the result of unsafe abortions. While this is more than a statistic, representative of tens of thousands of lives, it is also noteworthy that more than six times that number of lives might be saved through simple, fairly inexpensive initiatives the Canadian government has expressed a desire to support.

Following Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement of this initiative Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Opposition, fulfilled his role of challenging the government’s position. However, Mr. Ignatieff went one step further by engaging in an ideological debate that could well lead to the continuing, otherwise preventable, deaths of hundreds of thousands of mothers-to-be each year in the global south on a point of an unresolved domestic debate about abortion and the issue of current abortion funding policies within the borders of Canada.

Print media and the blogosphere are full of strong positions being taken from several perspectives on this issue. Pro-choice (and some pro-abortionists who are resident in the pro-choice camp) writers have written strong  messages that Canada should only engage on this initiative in the global south on the basis of funding abortion in similar capacity to funding provided in Canada. Pro-life writers have both congratulated the Prime Minister and Minister for International Cooperation Bev Oda for refusing to budge on the issue of abortion and demanded that the government take similar action in Canada, or at minimum, engage Parliament and the nation in full open debate on abortion, the alternative being to risk perception of hypocrisy in regard to the initiative tied to Millennium Development Goals #4 (reduce child mortality) and #5 (improve maternal health).

These approaches are, unfortunately and perhaps unwittingly, equally targeted at taking lives.

I’m unabashedly pro-life in my outlook. There’s no question that human life is unique; begins at conception (heck, we wouldn’t prohibit human/animal hybrid experimentation or wrestle with the ethical dilemma of embryo disposal pertaining to in vitro fertilization if we weren’t all intuitively aware of the uniqueness of human life); is to be valued in all people (yes, even those who are not like us or disagree with us); and, concludes properly with a natural death (we do need to invest more health dollars in palliative care instead of having a national debate on saving money through euthanasia).

Part of being pro-life is being pro-all-life, and in the same breath recognizing the limitations of what one person – or one national government – can do in this crazy mixed up world.

The initiative of the Prime Minister to take leadership on a commitment made 10 years ago by over 100 countries is to be applauded. The role Canada’s government has chosen to play – without arguing that other sovereign nations should be governed by this chosen route of engagement (in fact, those nations are free to engage on abortion initiatives if they think it more appropriate for their nation) – is significant.

Let’s not forget that there were no international leaders stepping forward to challenge the world to engage on preventing maternal deaths. Let’s also remember that the Prime Minister twinned the maternal life initiative with a child life initiative, i.e. not much point in taking simple measures to save mom’s life if you don’t take equally simple measures to increase the likelihood that her child will survive.

In short, the Canadian initiative is to save as many lives as possible with the Canadian dollars allocated to this initiative, conjoined with an invitation for other nations to review their signed commitment to the MDGs and get on board.

The debate on Canadian policy has been taking place, is taking place and will take place (just follow the media folks). But this initiative on MDGs #4 and #5 is not the place for that debate.

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