Following statements made by International Development Minister Christian Paradis and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the Women’s Resource Centre of Brandon is deeply concerned for women’s health globally.
Last week, Paradis stated that none of the $3 billion Canada has committed to maternal and child health will fund abortions. On the heals of a trip to the United Nations where Baird spoke of Canada’s commitment to women and girls, this marks more than a misstep in foreign aid policies.
While the Conservative government has committed to eliminating forced marriages of female children and sexual violence, especially in the context of war and conflict, this government’s commitment to anti-choice ideologies leaves the most marginalized women and girls unprotected.
Girls and women who have been raped are likely to sustain injuries, suffer from ill health and other complications on account of the violence they experience. They are also likely to face stigma and marginalization in their communities, especially when forced to carry pregnancies resulting from sexual violence to term.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 99 per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Unsafe abortions account for many of these maternal deaths. WHO, the leading expert in maternal health internationally, claims “All women, including adolescents, need access to family planning, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care.”
Even statistics from Baird’s office confirm the need for abortion access; girls under 15 years old are five times more likely to die in childbirth. In fact, childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 18 globally.
The Conservative government claims to care about the health of women and girls at home and abroad, but ignoring one of the most important aspects of our reproductive health suggests otherwise.
In 2006, the Conservative government cut funding to Status of Women by 37 per cent, effectively closing 12 of its 16 regional offices. It has also changed funding procedures so that advocacy groups and women’s service providers, including rape crisis centres, have become ineligible for funding. We have seen drastic cuts to women’s organizations with a reproductive health and social justice focus, including the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the Canadian Women’s Health Network.
In the context of drastic cuts to reproductive health care at home, it is unsurprising to hear that the Conservative government will not fund abortion abroad.
We strongly believe that the health of women and girls, especially in the context of violence, war, and conflict, should outweigh ideological alliances. The Canadian government has a political responsibility to support women and girls health holistically.
The Women’s Resource Centre Advocacy Committee
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 22, 2013