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For immediate release  •   June 9, 2010

Harper Defies the Experts

A range of experts says safe abortion funding should be included in G8 maternal health initiative

NATIONAL – Three pro-choice groups in Canada say there’s an easy fix for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get himself out of the bind he’s in after his own government plunged him into an abortion debate he didn’t want: “Listen to the experts – and the public – and reverse your decision to exclude safe abortion from the G8 initiative to improve maternal and child health,” advised Joyce Arthur, Coordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC).

“Harper and the Conservative government have fallen victim to their own right-wing ideology, becoming increasingly embroiled in a scandal of their own making,” said Nathalie Parent of the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances (FQPN). “One of the most damning revelations came out on May 24 – the government had ignored its own expert advice* to include safe abortion in the initiative,” said Parent.

The January briefing note from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) stated: "Globally, complications after unsafe abortions cause 13 per cent of maternal deaths." A maternal health initiative promoting safe abortion methods (where legal) would achieve "a significant decrease in the global number of unwanted births and of half the number of unsafe abortions," said CIDA.

Despite those facts, Bev Oda, minister of international co-operation, announced on April 26 that safe abortion would be excluded from the G8 initiative.

That means the Canadian government is not listening to…

World scientific experts: A stern rebuke recently came from The Royal Society of Canada and seven other elite national scientific bodies from G8 countries, including Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. Their statement said that governments and NGOs “must deal openly with unsafe abortions and ensure appropriate and accessible treatment of women who develop complications.” (Source*)  Also, a prestigious scientific journal published in the UK, The Lancet, has rebuked Canada twice – in an editorial and a feature article. (Source*) (Source*)

World-renowned practitioners: Dr. David Grimes, a leading expert in abortion provision and an advocate for safe abortion, tells us in Unsafe abortion: the preventable pandemic, that when abortion is made legal, safe, and easily accessible, women’s health rapidly improves. By contrast, women’s health deteriorates when access to safe abortion is made more difficult or illegal. He points out that “direct costs of treating abortion complications burden impoverished health care systems, and indirect costs also drain struggling economies.” (Source*)

International research and health institutions: The well-respected research agency The Guttmacher Institute tells us in its recent publication, Adding It Up, that of the 20 million women who had unsafe abortions, 8.5 million needed care for complications of unsafe procedures. (Source*). The World Health Organization says that “unsafe abortion is an issue which we have to confront if we are able to prevent or reduce its occurrence.” (Source*)

Parliamentarians from African, Asian and European G8 countries: In an appeal to G8 Heads of States and Governments they asked that “progress on Maternal and Newborn Health get back on track by following policies and interventions that make up a sound approach at country level …which includes providing safe quality package of evidence-based interventions such as safe abortion and post abortion services, where abortion is legal.” (Source*)

Foreign ministers and officials, and foreign aid groups: Harper received a blunt rebuke from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after she attended a Quebec meeting of G8 foreign ministers in March. “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health,” said Clinton. “And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion.” (Source*) The international community has publicly criticized the Canadian government, including various international aid groups (Source*), the British Foreign Secretary (Source*), USAID – the U.S. Agency for International Development (Source*, Source*), and Human Rights Watch (Source*).

Its own citizens: Two different polls show that 58% to 61% of the Canadian public strongly support the inclusion of safe abortion funding in the G8 initiative (Source*, Source*). This is despite Harper’s earlier claim that “Canadians want to see their foreign aid money used for things that will help save the lives of women and children in ways that unite the Canadian people rather than divide them”. (Source*)

The people of developing countries:  A woman: “When abortion is legalized it will be better because you will know that you can go to a safe place where you don’t risk your life. Now people do it illegally and they end up losing their lives. If abortion is legal I think this business of producing children and throwing them in a dustbin, in streets, in toilets, will stop”. A man: “…look at my wife. Will she survive another pregnancy? She already looks torn down. I will do anything to have this pregnancy terminated.” Amare Badada, Ethiopian Family Guidance Association: “Women [who need to] will always find a way to abort somehow. If they are forced to give birth they throw the children into latrines or abandon them for the hyenas to eat them.” From Cries and Whispers, Marie Stopes International (Source*).  Also: The http://theannaproject.ca puts a human face on the debate. Visit the site and read real stories about unsafe abortions.

“The evidence is extensive – Harper has been defying all of the experts on this subject – but he needs to start listening to them now,” said Wendy Miller of the anna project. “With one simple solution, he can close the abortion debate AND save the lives of 70,000 women a year. Mr. Harper, reverse your G8 decision now!”

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* Sources: If you have a hardcopy of this release, please access the source links from the copy on our website: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/press/release-jun9-10-english.html

Joyce Arthur

Coordinator / Coordinatrice, ARCC-CDAC, Vancouver

604-351-0867

Nathalie Parent

Coordonnatrice générale, Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances, Montréal

514-866-3721

Wendy Miller

The Anna Project: http://theannaproject.ca

613-724-3787