TORONTO, Ontario, May 30, 2014 ( – Prime Minister Steven Harper reiterated the Conservative government’s official policy that bars funding abortions from its flagship maternal health program in the developing world – despite the fact that the government never actually stopped funding abortion overseas. 

“We're trying to rally a broad public consensus behind what we're doing, and you can't rally a consensus on that issue [of abortion], as you know well in this country,” Harper told CBCNews during the summit on maternal and child health taking place in Toronto this week. 


“It's not only controversial here, it's controversial and often illegal in many recipient nations. So, we’re focusing on the things where we can save lives and where there’s great public consensus behind what we’re doing,” he said.

When CBC's Hannah Thibedeau asked Harper if he was comfortable exporting his beliefs abroad, he responded: “We're really not taking a position on that. We have taxpayers' money and we have great needs…And frankly, there's more than enough things that we can finance, including contraception, without getting into an issue that really would be extremely divisive for Canadians and donors.” 

The Conservative government first announced in April 2010 that it would not “include funding of abortions” as part of its Muskoka Maternal, Newborns and Child Health commitment overseas. 

Despite this pledge, the government continued funding Marie Stopes International — a leading abortion provider, which admits to offering the procedure in countries where it’s illegal — until May 2011. 

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In September 2011, the government then awarded a three-year, $6 million grant to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the world’s leading abortion provider, for “sexual and reproductive health services.” 

The Conservatives defended the grant at that time, saying that it was in line with its pledge because abortion is not legal in the five countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mali, Sudan, and Tanzania — where IPPF would invest the money. The grant agreement in fact stipulated that “abortion services will not be funded.” 

But shortly after the government announced the IPPF grant, Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott pointed out that abortion is not, in fact, illegal in Bangladesh when it is carried out as “menstrual regulation” — a procedure that an IPPF affiliate receiving 35 percent of the $6 million grant admitted to performing in the thousands per year. 

“Government policy in Bangladesh does not recognize abortion; but there [exists] a policy on menstruation regulation (MR), which permits termination of unwanted pregnancy up to 10 weeks from the last menstrual period,” stated IPPF affiliate Family Planning Association of Bangladesh on its website at the time.

When pressed for a record of where the IPPF funds go, the government admitted last October that it has “no records” to indicate what specifically is included in IPPF’s “sexual and reproductive health” and “family planning” services. 

While Mr. Harper has stated on numerous occasions that he will not reopen the abortion debate, he said in the recent CBC interview that “it’s hard for me not to get very emotional” over Canadians foregoing vaccinating their children. 

“We do have scientists and medical professionals who do great work and verify this. I just think it’s a tragedy when people start to go off on their own theories and not listen to the scientific evidence.”

In 2012, Mr. Harper voted against Motion 312 which had called on Parliament of set up a committee to examine the scientific evidence for the humanity of the unborn child.