Maternal Health Pledge Must Include Access to Safe Abortion Care

Today, I issued the following statement:

Last week, Prime Minister Harper announced that he plans to make maternal health in the developing world a priority when he hosts the G8 summit in June. If the Prime Minister is truly serious about improving women’s health internationally, his initiatives must address the comprehensive maternal and reproductive health care needs of women, including access to safe abortion care.

As we have seen in Canada and other countries throughout the world, access to safe, legal abortion care preserves women’s health and saves women’s lives. Unsafe abortion remains one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in developing nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 70,000 women worldwide die from unsafe abortions annually and millions more are injured, many permanently.

The WHO also estimates that up to 40 percent of maternal deaths could be prevented with access to family planning and contraception services. International health and development agencies, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, consistently link contraception to maternal health in the developing world.

However, last week Canadian International Development Agency Minister Bev Oda said the government’s child and maternal health strategy will not address unsafe abortions in developing countries or support access to family planning and contraception. Canada must not follow in the footsteps of the United States, which during the Bush Administration restricted funding for foreign organizations providing abortion counseling, referrals, or care, and those who worked to challenge abortion restrictions. This policy had devastating consequences for the millions of women in developing nations who rely upon such organizations for essential health care services.

This is a critical opportunity for Prime Minister Harper to champion the health of some of the world’s poorest women. We join Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and others in the Liberal Party in urging the Prime Minister to keep ideology out of the maternal health initiative and include access to contraception and abortion care in his efforts to improve maternal health care.

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