As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, the future doesn’t look so bright for women in the developing world.
This week, some of the world’s top doctors met in Vancouver to share their extraordinary research on how we can save lives and improve the future of the world’s most vulnerable people. But a dark cloud hung over the meeting. It was impossible to miss the deep concern, fear, and shock these scientists felt about the Canadian government’s position on maternal and child health.
Only a few months ago, these same physicians were overjoyed when they heard that Canada was going to make maternal and child health a priority at this summer's G8 summit in Ontario. They understand very well the interplay between the fate of a mother and that of her children. Their joy, however, turned to shock when this life and death issue turned political and regressive.
These scientists asked: Why is Canada putting itself in a corner, separate from all other G8 nations on the abortion issue? Why does Canada want to deprive woman in developing countries from having the same reproductive rights as Canadian women? Why is Canada cutting funding to groups such as Plan International and Match International, groups that have provided women access to family planning and safe abortions where it is legal, funded violence prevention initiatives, combated the practice of female genital mutilation, and supported gender equality?
They wondered: Doesn’t the Canadian government know that 63,000 women die every year from septic abortions and that these deaths are entirely preventable? Don’t they know that when a mother dies in a low-income country, more than half of her children under the age of five will also perish? Don’t they know that rape is used as a tool of war and that men are frequently forced at gunpoint to rape female members of their family, with some of these women becoming pregnant as a result of this horrific act?
These physicians were aghast that the debate in Canada has turned so ugly. They were deeply worried that this will derail efforts to enable Canada to lead the other G8 nations to develop and implement a plan of action that can move their excellent research from the bench to the bedside. Such a plan would save the lives of the nearly nine million children who die every year from largely preventable causes.
Harper again makes Canada an international pariah.
By the way, the argument that 'abortion is mostly illegal in the developing world anyway so what does it matter' is, surprise, surprise, bullshit. Abortion -- at least to save the life of the woman, and often to preserve her mental and/or physical health -- is nominally legal in most of the counties where aid is desperately needed.
Access, of course, is a totally different matter. And that's where the West must help, providing training and supplies and supporting local efforts to improve access and expand the conditions under which abortion is allowed.