OTTAWA (CCN) — The federal government is set to begin funding abortion in the developing world, reversing the policy of the Harper government to not provide funding for such procedures overseas.
“The government will close existing gaps in reproductive rights and health care for women as part of its commitment to refocus Canada’s development assistance on helping the poorest and most vulnerable,” a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said in an email statement. “It will also ensure that maternal, newborn and child health programming is driven by evidence and outcomes.”
When former prime minister Stephen Harper launched the Muskoka maternal, infant and child health initiative at the G8 summit held in Canada in 2010, funding for abortion was not included.
“The inclusion or exclusion of specific health services is under the purview of recipient countries,” the government spokesperson said. “Many governments allow abortion on request or for a variety of reasons including safeguarding the woman’s health.”
The government spokesperson said Canada supports the health care systems of countries in line with their legal frameworks and priorities.
“Canada will ensure access to safe, reliable and high-quality family planning services, which, when used effectively, should reduce the recourse to abortion, decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies and improve maternal, newborn and child health,” the government spokesperson said. “Canada has committed $3.5 billion for 2015-2020 to supporting the health and rights of women and children and closing existing gaps in sexual and reproductive health care and services for women and adolescents. For 2016-2017 disbursements are expected to exceed $750 million.”
A spokesperson for the political arm of the pro-life movement said he was not surprised by the government move.
“We’ve seen this coming for a long time,” said Campaign Life Coalition’s UN representative Matthew Wojciechowski at a May 11 news conference in advance of the National March for Life, taking place May 12 in Ottawa. Even during the last election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “discussed plans for exporting abortion overseas.”
Obianuju Ekeocha, who is in Ottawa to speak at the March for Life and its annual Rose Dinner, said the majority of Africans oppose abortion as morally unacceptable. Ekeocha, a Nigerian biomedical scientist and founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, addressed a breakfast of parliamentarians May 10.
“They have decided that abortion is an attack on human life at its earliest stages,” the spokesperson said. “For a more developed country and a clearly wealthier nation bringing to us funding for abortion and a culture of abortion, it reeks of colonialization and it reeks of cultural imperialism.”
While the spokesperson said Canada is respecting local laws, Ekeocha said development funds often come with pressures from donor countries and philanthropic foundations to change those laws and “trigger social change.”