Friday March 19, 2010

PM Harper “Caves”: “Not Closing the Door” on Contraception in G8 Maternal Health Push

By Patrick B. Craine

OTTAWA, Ontario, March 19, 2010 ( – Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons yesterday that the government would be considering contraception as part of his maternal and child health initiative at the G8 in June, contradicting comments from cabinet members earlier in the week – and drawing criticisms from one pro-life group that he has “caved” on the issue.

“We are not closing the door on any option, including contraception,” the Prime Minister told NDP leader Jack Layton (Toronto-Danforth) during Question Period. “However, we do not wish to debate abortion in this place or elsewhere.”

Harper was reiterating comments made by Bev Oda (Durham, CPC), Minister of International Cooperation, earlier in the session.

“As we have been saying all along, we are not closing the door on any options that will save the lives of mothers and children, including contraception,” Oda said in response to a question from Bob Rae. “And as we have been saying all along, we are not opening the abortion debate.”

Layton pressed the Prime Minister further, asking a question that he called “extremely important” and “extremely clear”: “Does the Prime Minister agree with the broad sweep of opinion that is extremely clear, that contraception saves lives?”

Harper avoided the question, insisting that he had already answered it, and attempted to raise a different issue.

The government had taken a different stance in days prior, however. On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told the foreign affairs committee that the initiative “does not deal in any way, shape, or form with family planning.”

The government was then drilled by Layton and Liberal Health Critic Carolyn Bennett on Wednesday. While Minister Oda did not specifically exclude contraception in her responses, she appeared to defend Cannon’s remarks.

“I did make a mistake in making that determination,” Cannon told CTV this morning. The plan “doesn’t deal with abortion, [but] it doesn’t exclude contraception.”

Regarding abortion, he added, “If other states are involved in that area, then fine.”

But, as Paul Wells of Maclean’s points out, “at least since 2005, when Stephen Harper says he does not want to re-open the debate on abortion, he has always meant he did not want to limit access to abortion where it is now available.”

Prime Minister Harper’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that, since the Prime Minister and Minister Oda had already commented, he will “let their comments stand.”

Proponents of contraception in the initiative claim that it is needed to save women’s lives in the developing world citing statistics from the Planned Parenthood-associated Guttmacher Institute alleging that 215 million women have an “unmet need” for contraception.

Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute, said yesterday, however, that women in the developing world are deemed “ipso facto [to] have a so-called unmet need for contraception” based on the simple fact that they had a baby in the last two years and are not currently sterilized or on contraception. He noted, in fact, that a woman could be using natural family planning successfully, but still be deemed to have this “unmet need.”

“[Their] cure for maternal mortality is reducing the number of women who get pregnant,” Mosher told LifeSiteNews (LSN). They are “trying to save lives by preventing women from conceiving children at all. That’s like saying we’re going to stop all traffic fatalities by preventing people to drive cars.”

Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, called the Prime Minister’s comments “a giant step backwards and a disappointment.”

“We’re disappointed that the Conservative government has taken a step backwards in accepting contraception when they were very clear that their aim was to provide good maternal care,” she commented. “All Canadians were supportive of providing good maternal health care, safe water, medicines and so on, so why bring in divisive items such as contraception and abortion?”

Douglas concluded, “The Prime Minister has caved in to pressure from pro-abortion activists to allow for contraception in the G8 health plan. Hopefully he will not cave on abortion too.”

Contact Information:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

80 Wellington Street


K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900

E-mail: [email protected]

Bev Oda, MP (Durham) and Minister of International Cooperation

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON

K1A 0A6

Phone: (613) 992-2792

Fax: (613) 992-2794

Email: [email protected]

See related coverage:

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

Maternal Health Plan about Saving Lives, not “Family Planning”: Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister

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