Friday, 4 October 2013

Shame on the Ugly Canadians

Just when you think the Harper Government simply cannot further embarrass us on the world stage or horrify us at home, there's this shameful news.
International Development Minister Christian Paradis says the government will not fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and child brides to obtain an abortion.
To its credit, the NDP jumped in with appropriate outrage.
“It is simply shameful to see Conservatives putting their ideology ahead of helping these vulnerable women,” said Official Opposition International Development Critic Hélène Laverdière (Laurier--Sainte-Marie). “This is about helping some of the world’s most at risk women, it’s a shame Minister Paradis and the Conservatives aren’t willing to put aside their own narrow agenda.”

This announcement runs counter to the Foreign Affairs Minister’s recent emphasis on the plight of child brides.

“In the developing world, complications in childbirth are the number one cause of death for girls aged 15-19,” said Official Opposition Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar. “Just last week Minister Baird told the United Nations that ‘these girls are children; they quite simply are not ready to be parents.’ So why are Conservatives turning their back on them now?”
As we've reported here before, the consequences to victims of war rape are heart-rending and enraging. Victims are shunned by their families and villages and women who are impregnated by rape are rejected by their husbands, if they have them, and so are left to raise a child alone in poverty, creating yet another victim.

But hey, this government is aaaallll about the girls and women, right? That's why Motherhood Steve led the charge on the Maternal Health Initiative, right?

How's that going, by the way, you ask?

Not so shit hot according to Joyce Arthur writing in today's Rabble.

There's been some progress overall on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), of which maternal health is one, but things are not so rosy for women and children.
A great deal of progress has been achieved across all eight goals, but many gaps remain, particularly those relating to women and children (MDG 3, 4, 5). Unfortunately, improvements to women's equality and rights, including access to reproductive health services, generally lag behind most other targets. Since reducing child mortality depends on raising women's status and saving their lives, that goal also has fallen far short in some parts of the world. Each year, more than a million children are left motherless because of women dying during pregnancy or childbirth. These children are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely than those living in families with a mother.
So, what is Canada doing? Hard to say. It's kind of confusing.

When Canada hosted the G8/G20 summit in 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper put maternal and child health front and centre, with resulting pledges of $7.3 billion from participating countries and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At least $24 billion was needed, however, according to aid groups. Further, Harper had to be shamed into including funding for family planning services in Canada's contribution, and he refused outright to fund safe abortion in countries where it's legal.

Harper decided that Canada's money would be spent on three main needs in 10 countries (seven in Africa): strengthening health systems, reducing the burden of disease, and improving nutrition. So far, it appears that only a tiny portion of Canada's portion of the G8 funding ($2.85 billion) has been spent on family planning, although it's difficult to figure out exactly where all the money is going. Several Google searches produced these tidbits: $20 million for free prenatal care in Haiti, and undisclosed amounts for the UN Population Fund and a sexual and reproductive health project in Bangladesh; $6 million for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (for sex education, family planning and post-abortion counselling); $75 million for the Muskoka Initiative Partnership Program (to strengthen health systems, reduce disease, and improve nutrition); and most recently, $203 million to provide immunizations, basic health care, and community services to make childbirth and pregnancy safer.

Not only is Canada cherry-picking its aid for maternal/child health services, it attaches strings to it. Money can only be spent as per Canada's own goals and guidelines, giving little or no say to smaller groups on the ground in the target country. This makes it far less likely that the money will be used constructively, or will flow to needed reproductive health services such as post-abortion care.
Joyce's column was published before today's shocker. But she points out the fundamental hypocrisy in the Harper Government's incoherent policy.
Ignoring the need for safe abortion in maternal health programs means disregarding the health and lives of millions of women. It also reveals a fundamental hypocrisy. Conservatives apparently believe that only women who have babies are worthy of support -- but most women having abortions are already mothers. As Rachel Atkins says: "There aren't women who have abortions and women who have babies. Those are the same women at different points in their lives." Abandoning women who need abortions therefore means abandoning mothers and children -- the very demographic Harper has promised to help.
If possible, it seems that the Harper Government has even less empathy for women and girls who are brutalized not just by poverty but by war rape and child marriage.

But hey, there's a Conservative convention coming up and the rabid base is starving for red meat.

Motherhood Steve just offered up the bodies of these women and children to the ravening horde.

We're the Ugly Canadians now. Thanks, Steve.

1 comment:

choice joyce said...

Thanks fern!! Wow, the timing for my article was better than I could have imagined. What a travesty. On Facebook, Kel Red said it well: "Con's version of maternal health facilitates maternal death."

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