Thursday April 15, 2010

Head of WHO Backs U.S. Over Canada: Pushes Abortion in ‘Maternal Health’

By Patrick B. Craine

NEW YORK, April 15, 2010 ( – The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has come out in favor of the U.S.’s approach to maternal health, which includes the promotion of abortion, over that of Canada.

At a UN news conference Wednesday, WHO’s director-general Dr. Margaret Chan praised U.S. President Barack Obama’s promotion of the legal “right” to abortion.

Dr. Chan sat next to Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation Bev Oda. Both of them were joining UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as he announced the UN’s new effort to curb maternal deaths during childbirth and pregnancy.

Chan said abortion is a “very complex, difficult and sensitive” issue, according to the Vancouver Sun.

“In the case of Canada, I think I respect the government and its people to decide what is their right investment — and I am sure that this is the discussion that is going on,” she said.

Regarding Obama, she said, “I am very pleased to see the change in President Obama — this is really wonderful; sometimes … it is not easy for outside people to tell them what to do.”

The comments are being taken by some as a shot aimed at Canada’s Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as it makes plans to promote the cause of maternal and child health care in the developing world as president of this year’s G8 summit in June.

The Conservative government initially had refused to support contraception and abortion in their plan, saying that they intended to promote maternal and child health through such things as clean water, inoculations, and good medical care. The government has since backed down on contraception. Leaders of the party have, however refused to answer whether their plan includes support for abortion or not, sticking with the line that they “do not wish to debate abortion.”

The Conservatives have received intense pressure from the opposition parties to back down on abortion as well. Last month a motion was introduced by the opposition Liberals demanding that the government’s G8 plan “include the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options.” The inclusion of abortion within these euphemisms was clear from the fact that the motion also condemned George W. Bush’s Mexico City Policy, which was a ban on the use of federal funds to support groups that promote or provide abortions overseas.

In a surprise victory for the pro-life cause, the Liberals’ motion was defeated 138-144, with three Liberal MPs – Paul Szabo, Dan McTeague, and John McKay – defying their party’s whip and voting against it; fourteen other Liberals were missing or abstained.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heaped more pressure on the government late last month during a trip to Canada, when she insisted that “you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health.”

“Reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion,” she said.

David Milibrand, the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, stated at the time that he agreed with Clinton.

Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda told reporters, according to the Vancouver Sun, that Canada does not expect the other G8 countries to follow Canada’s approach to promoting maternal health. “I’ve just told my colleagues that every country has experience, and we’re asking them all to focus within a framework,” she said. “However, they will be free and flexible to choose the best way that they will contribute to the effort.”

See related coverage:

Clinton Blasted for Pushing Abortion in Canada’s G8 Maternal Health Plan