Aid experts alarmed by Canada’s new anti-abortion stand in foreign policy have been advised to “shut the f--- up” or risk Prime Minister Stephen Harper taking even more harsh measures – abroad, or maybe even at home if abortion becomes an election issue.
“We’ve got five weeks or whatever left until G-8 starts. Shut the f--- up on this issue,” Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth told a group of international-development advocates who gathered on Parliament Hill on Monday to sound the alarm about Canada’s hard-right stand against abortion in foreign aid.
“If you push it, there will be more backlash,” Ruth said. “This is now a political football. This is not about women’s health in this country.”
And it solves a mystery I've been pondering all weekend -- why are aid groups, including my beloved Plan Canada, not only shutting the fuck up but wagging their collective finger at those of us who will not.
A coalition of development leaders including Plan is calling upon leaders to remember that another 8.8 million children and more than 300,000 mothers will die from preventable illnesses if we allow the political debate on abortion to obscure the critical issue of maternal and infant health.
The CEOs of CARE, Plan, RESULTS, Save the Children, UNICEF
and World Vision are taking a stand on this issue and do not want the potential for hope and opportunity to be swallowed up by a political debate that is stifling the potential for progress.
Here is Plan's official statement:
Time to Measure Success in Lives Saved, Not Political Points Scored: Development Leaders Say
Every year nine million women around the world watch as their children die from painful, preventable illnesses that often cost dimes, not dollars, to treat. Hundreds of thousands more women die in childbirth because they lack access to dependable health care close to home.
For groups like ours, who are working to make a difference in the lives of these millions of women and children, the upcoming G8 in Canada provides an historic opportunity to chart a course out of this desperate terrain.
And yet, instead of pushing forward in support of an initiative that could benefit millions, we're allowing the potential for hope and opportunity to be swallowed up by a political debate about abortion that is stifling the potential for progress.
We know from recent polls that abortion is a sensitive issue for Canadians and debating abortion in the context of this initiative will not resolve the domestic debate. Rather, it will stall or table an initiative that has enormous potential to save the lives of millions of mothers and children from some of the major causes of death.
Considering that Plan is the creator of the fabulous Because I Am a Girl project and has an honourable record for standing up for women's rights, I thought this bend-over-backwardsy chiding was a bit rich.
So I posted a link to Rosie DiManno's harrowing story of rape in Africa on Plan's Facebook page, told them I've been a Foster Parent (as it used to be called) for over 20 years, and that I found their cowardice appalling. I was fueled by the extra news that cutesy gift baskets were going to be given to all MPs -- many of whom would delight in casting Canadian women's rights back to Third World status -- on the occasion of Mother's Day.
I got chided too.
Fern, Plan is a rights-based secular development organization and we support the rights of women to choose all legal and safe options when it comes to family planning and other reproductive health services The reality is that abortion is not widely available or legal in many developing countries. Where it is, Plan offers counselling and referral to women so they can make their own decisions. The basic tenet of reproductive rights is about empowering women and girls, and this is Plan’s core service.
When it comes to the current debate in Canada, our position is that we need to put aside our differences and not get sidetracked by a debate on abortion when the majority of the over 500,000 maternal deaths every year result from lack of access to basic health care, nutrition and clean water. We have an opportunity to lead an international initiative that will save millions of women and their children from preventable deaths. The gift baskets we are giving to MPs next week are a joint initiative with seven other NGOs and they include items like home birthing kits and vitamin A and are meant to educate our policy makers about the reality that millions of women face during pregnancy and child birth in the developing world.
I made a rather testy reply to that. Which was deleted. When I yelped over the deletion, I was told in a private message that Plan wants to maintain a 'positive' Facebook presence.
Shorter Plan Canada to fern hill: STFU.
Well, Plan, I think I'll take a page out of the ReformaTories' play-book and defund you. I'll find an international development org with an actual spine and heart to give my $400+ a year to.
By the way, here's a list of groups defunded by the ReformaTories in the last two weeks.