Friday June 4, 2010

New UN Report Confirms Canada’s Refusal to Fund Third World Abortion

By Patrick B. Craine

OTTAWA, Ontario, June 4, 2010 ( – A new report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF has underscored the wisdom behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to exclude abortion from Canada’s maternal and child health initiative. Declaring that 2 million maternal, newborn, and stillbirth deaths result each year from a lack of skilled birth attendants, the Countdown to 2015 Decade Report (2000-2010) reveals the importance of the simple solutions that Harper outlined when he first announced the initiative in January.

The report, released Thursday, tracked the progress over the last decade of the 68 countries where more than 95% of all maternal and child deaths take place.

While the report does call for greater access to contraception and describes “safe abortion” as “essential for reducing maternal deaths,” the authors maintain that the risk of mortality for mothers and babies is highest before, during, and just after birth. As such, they emphasize the need for skilled birth attendants and other remedies surrounding birth.

According to the report, nearly 50% of women in the focus countries, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, give birth without skilled assistance.

“All women and their newborns need skilled care at birth and access to emergency care when complications develop,” said Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, MD, of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan and co-chair of Countdown to 2015.

In addition to skilled birth attendants, the “crucial services” they recommend include immunizations for mother and child, early breastfeeding, antibiotics, and bed nets to protect from malaria.

But they first recommend the use of oxytocin to avoid post-partum hemorrhaging, the leading cause of maternal death according to the report. In fact, they estimate that more than half of maternal deaths are due to post-partum hemorrhaging and hypertension.

“During this critical period of birth and the first few days of life, far more than 50 percent of maternal and newborn deaths can be prevented by the initiation of these simple interventions, as part of a continuum of care that links home and hospital,” said Joy Lawn, MD, of Save the Children.

These “crucial” solutions are all within the parameters that Prime Minister Harper laid out in January when he announced his plan to promote maternal and child health as president of this month’s G8 summit.

“Far too many lives and unexplored futures have already been lost for want of relatively simple health-care solutions,” Harper wrote on January 27th. “The cost of clean water, inoculations and better nutrition, as well as the training of health workers to care for women and deliver babies, is within the reach of any country in the G8.”

Within days of the announcement, however, abortion advocates were calling on the government to fund abortions as well. On February 2, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff demanded “a clear commitment that women’s reproductive rights” be protected. “We don’t want to have women dying because of botched procedures, we don’t want to have women dying in misery,” he told reporters.

After several months of debate, including a failed Liberal motion calling on the government to include abortion in the plan, the government confirmed on April 26 that they would not consider abortion in the plan.

In defending this stance, Harper emphasized that the government had to focus their use of funds. “We are sponsoring an initiative to help save the lives of mothers and children around the world,” he told the House of Commons April 27. “There is a range of initiatives that can be funded in that regard by various G8 countries. We are clear what initiatives we are funding and, believe me, there is more than enough to do in those areas to save the lives of women and children.”

The Countdown to 2015 Decade Report (2000-2010) is available here.

See related coverage:

Third World Women Don’t Want Contraceptives, Expert Tells Canadian Politicians

Canadian Gvmt: No Abortion in G8 Maternal Health Plan

Liberal Party of Canada Demands Abortion Push in Maternal Health Initiative

Canadian PM Calls for G8 to Tackle Maternal Mortality – Abortion Push Feared


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