Canadian bishops’ agency caught funding yet another pro-abortion group
MONTREAL, Sept. 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As Canada’s bishops prepare for their annual meeting next week, LifeSiteNews has discovered that their international aid organization Development and Peace is funding another pro-abortion group in the developing world.
The NGO Forum on Cambodia, a consortium of development NGOs working in the Southeast Asian country, has called for greater access to “safe abortion,” demanded recognition of women’s “reproductive rights,” and joined a coalition that promotes a pro-abortion interpretation of the UN’s Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, said in January that the bishops “would not have patience for one minute to be supporting any partner that would in any way be pro-abortion.”
It is unclear how much money the Canadian bishops’ development agency has sent the NGO Forum. Development and Peace has not published a full list of its aid recipients since LifeSiteNews began revealing in 2009 that they were funding around two dozen groups on three continents that advocate the decriminalization of abortion, in addition to other activities contrary to Catholic teaching.
As has been the case with past D&P partners that LifeSiteNews has highlighted, the NGO Forum does not specialize in abortion activism. But, like the others, simple web searches easily turned up numerous statements and reports indicating the promotion of the legal killing of unborn children is a component of the group’s overall approach to human rights and development.
In April 2009, the organization submitted a report on “gender issues” to the Cambodian government with six other NGOs in which they lamented that while “termination of pregnancy” has been legal in Cambodia since 1997, “a number of barriers to safe termination services persist.”
“Safe abortion services are not readily available in Cambodia and only 47 percent of public hospitals and about 15 percent of health centres offer any kind of abortion services,” the submission reads. They then call on the government to “provide basic reproductive health to all women.”
In April 2012, the NGO Forum’s executive director, Chhith Sam Ath, co-signed a letter calling for recognition of “sexual reproductive health and rights” in a human rights declaration that is being drafted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Southeast Asian governments should “take all appropriate measures to modify or abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices which limit women from enjoying their fundamental freedoms and rights,” they wrote.
They also called for the inclusion of rights based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the declaration, and asked that there be “no inclusion of ‘morality, moral value or traditional values’ clauses that serve to undermine rights.”
The NGO Forum’s website explains that it was founded by international NGOs in the 1980s to demand an end to an aid embargo against Cambodia, but notes that their mission eventually expanded to other development-related issues.
In 1997, they formed a Women’s Working Group. The organization’s annual report for 2000 indicates this working group had met to discuss action related to Cambodia’s abortion law, in addition to organizing celebrations for the radically pro-abortion International Women’s Day.
As a representative of NGOs, the NGO Forum regularly publishes position papers authored by members and other NGOs. In 2006, 2008, and 2010, they published papers by MEDiCAM, a consortium of health NGOs working in Cambodia, that called for improvements in the country’s provision of “safe abortion.”
“The coverage of maternal health services still remains low and there is still an unmet need for birth spacing. At the same time, many women do not have access to safe abortions,” the 2006 paper read.
In 2010, the NGO Forum issued a joint statement along with MEDiCAM and others that called for “safe abortion” as a way to reduce maternal mortality. Though endorsed by the other groups, the document indicates it was compiled and distributed by the NGO Forum.
In 2009, the D&P partner was part of a working group that released a report on Cambodia’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. In a section on women’s equal rights to health, the report calls for the “elimination of all obstacles” to “sexual and reproductive health,” and says it is “crucial to counteract the harmful impact of traditional attitudes and practices denying women’s full reproductive rights.”
Notably, the NGO Forum’s membership list includes the U.S. Bishops’ Catholic Relief Services, and the Australian Bishops’ Australian Catholic Relief.
LifeSiteNews did not hear back from Development and Peace nor the NGO Forum on Cambodia by press time. D&P has said in the past that they have a policy to not give interviews to LifeSiteNews.
After the initial funding scandal at D&P broke in 2009, the organization and supporters justified the controversial funding relationships by arguing that while the partners may advocate legal abortion, the specific projects funded by D&P are unrelated to abortion.
But, like Archbishop Smith, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto insisted that D&P should only fund groups in harmony with the Catholic faith.
“It is not enough to examine the suitability of individual projects,” he wrote in 2009. “The organizations that operate the projects must also be in harmony with the principles of our Catholic faith. If they are not, then there are plenty of other worthy projects that are operated by organizations which we can in good conscience support, and funding should go to them.”
The Canadian Bishops launched a renewal of D&P in 2010, but the agency’s leadership has remained intact, and they have continued to face criticism over questionable funding relationships.
In March 2011, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast was forced to cancel a talk at his diocesan centre by Fr. Luis Arriaga, the head of former D&P partner Centre PRODH, which LifeSiteNews had highlighted in its first report on D&P in March 2009. The Jesuit priest refused to sign a statement assuring his belief in the right to life of the unborn, reportedly on the basis that such a stand would be a “violation of basic human rights.”
That controversy was compounded by the fact that D&P’s executive director, Michael Casey, had responded to the talk’s cancellation by sending out an e-mail to supporters that defended Fr. Arriaga for his “inspiring work” and lauded Centre PRODH as “highly respected for its outstanding work in defending the lives of the most vulnerable in Mexican society.”
In March 2012, LifeSiteNews reported that D&P is funding a Haitian woman’s group, named APROSIFA, that openly hands out free contraceptives and has produced literature on how to obtain abortions. It is unclear whether or not the funding has remained in place.
On Wednesday, the Catholic Register reported that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops had taken the unprecedented step of blocking D&P’s fall education campaign after several bishops refused to allow the materials into their parishes.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled to meet for its annual general assembly in Saint-Adele, Quebec from Sept. 24-28.
Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada
724 Manor Avenue
Ottawa, ON KIM OE3
Phone: (613) 746-4914
Fax: (613) 746-4786
E-mail: [email protected]
Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton
Edmonton (AB) T6A 0L1
Tel: (780) 469-1010
Fax: (780) 465-3003
E-mail: [email protected]
To contact any Canadian bishop, find contact information here.