Roundup: Canada’s Pro-Choice Politicians Lose Vote On Family Planning


While the U.S. just had our pro-choice politicians put their priorities to a vote, Canada also went through a similar power-struggle between their pro- and anti-choice forces. In Canada’s case, it was the anti-choice side that came out ahead.

What was up for debate was whether abortion would be included in Canada’s maternal and child health initiative at the G8 summit this June. Initially, contraception was going to be left off because, in the words Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon family planning doesn’t “save lives” and the goal of this initiative is to improve the health of mothers and young children in poor countries. (Quite the head-scratching statement).

After receiving a firestorm of criticism Prime Minister Steven Harper seemed to open the door to contraception being included, but didn’t want a “debate here or elsewhere on abortion.”

Yesterday the leader of Canada’s Liberal party, Michael Ignatieff tried to pass a motion that called to include “the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options” in Harper’s G8 initiative.

The Montreal Gazette reports:

After accusing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff of playing petty anti-American politics and attempting to instigate a divisive debate on abortion, the minority Conservative government on Tuesday defeated by 144-138 a Liberal motion that called for family planning in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s G8 maternal and child health initiative.

Harper is hosting a G8 summit in Muskoka in central Ontario in June and pledged to focus on nutrition, clean water, inoculations and basic health care. During debate Tuesday, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda told reporters the government is still committed to contraception as a possible element as well but refused to let the Liberals hijack the initiative by focusing on abortion.

The Liberal motion said the initiative must include “the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options” and that the government “should refrain from advancing the failed right-wing ideologies previously imposed by the George W. Bush administration in the United States” which barred official development assistance to non-government organizations that provide access to abortion. That policy was overturned in the opening days of the Obama administration.

The Ottawa Globe and Mail has more insight:

It was a gong show last night in the Commons for Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals; one Liberal MP is even calling it “clown city.”

First, the Liberal motion on the Harper government’s maternal health initiative, aimed at stirring up the Tory bench over reproductive issues, such as abortion, failed. The Grits lost the vote after three of their own MPs opposed it; others abstained and some Liberal MPs, who are pro-life, were told to stay away from the Commons, according to sources.

“Everyone knows that many Liberal supporters are pro-life” as are “a number of Liberal MPs, including myself,” Mississauga MP Albina Guarnieri said. She abstained.

“The motion did not specifically talk about abortion, but there was sufficient inference that some people stayed away and a few actually voted against it,” she said. “If it had been a more straightforward motion, everyone would have been standing on one side or the other.”

The Montreal Gazette quotes one MP who didn’t think the motion needed to say “abortion.”

Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett, an obstetrician, said it was unnecessary to use the word in the motion.

“No, I think that there is no need to mention abortion,” she told reporters. “I mean, full reproductive services is very clear. I think that . . . termination of pregnancy is a very difficult thing for lots of people, but it needs to be there. It is, in terms of a service offered to women. We want every child to be a planned child and pregnancy and still 13 per cent of the deaths attributed to pregnancy are from unsafe abortions.”

[Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae, sponsor of the motion] said the vote was intended as a way to clear the air. The government had given so many differing responses to questions about the initiative that its policy had come down to “contraception if necessary, but not necessarily contraception.”

A very timely poll says that Canadians overwhelmingly support contraception being included in Harper’s G8 initiative. The Canadian Press reports:

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey comes amid debate over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to champion maternal and child health in developing countries during the coming G8 summit.

The poll indicates fully 74 per cent believed the plan should include government funding for contraception; only 21 per cent were opposed.

But respondents were almost evenly split as to whether Harper’s initiative should include funding for abortion services, with 48 per cent opposed and 46 per cent in favor.

Meanwhile as a reminder why access to abortion in poorer countries is important, CNN offers this report on back alley abortions in Kenya where it remains an illegal practice.

Women are being forced into backstreet abortions in Kenya because of the country’s restrictive abortion law, a study says.

And the law could soon get even tougher with church groups urging a ban on almost all abortions.

The U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Health, which advocates abortions rights, found that women and girls in Kenya use metal wires, knitting needles and other unsafe practices to abort tens of thousands of unwanted pregnancies.

Now church groups in Kenya are pushing for the new constitution, coming up for a parliamentary vote soon, to make almost all abortions illegal. The church groups want to define ‘life as starting at conception,’ and heavily restrict abortion except for cases where a mother’s life is in immediate danger.

Social workers say that women often don’t have choices and that in a country where one-third of maternal deaths are caused by abortions, they say stricter laws will only force women to make choices that could kill them.

March 24, 2010

US Bishops call health care law ‘deeply flawed,’ ask Catholics to remain vigilant - Catholic News Agency

Neugebauer continues fight against abortion - LubbockOnline.com

Obama to sign executive order on abortion limits Wednesday – CNN

One way to balance the budget - California Catholic Daily

Atlanta Ads on Black Abortions May Go National - Women’s eNews

LIVE Blog: Obama set to sign executive order on abortion limits – CNN

Canada’s foreign policy on abortion unclear - TheChronicleHerald.ca

Obama to sign promised executive order on abortion - The Associated Press

NJ 2011 budget won’t include abortion funds – OneNewsNow

Health care policy skirts abortion - The Daily Evergreen

Abortion still a divisive political issue - Toronto Sun

Virtual March Believed to be First of its Kind - News Channel 7

A ray of sunshine for poor women - Boston Globe

Changes needed to cut childbirth mortality - Telegraph-Journal

Urge G8 to include contraception - Straight Goods

Florida: “Get Tested” Is Advice as AIDS Infection Rate Rises in Duval - TheBody.com

Money worries influencing family planning – Kiddicare

Central Jakarta Socialize Family Planning Service Via SMS - BeritaJakarta.com

HIV Numbers Reveal Impact on MSM Community - TheBody.com

Mayor’s Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten AIDS/HIV “Epicenter” in Bronx - The Bronx Ink

March 23, 2010

N.O.W. Health Care Reform Victory Comes with Tragic Setback for Women’s Rights – OpEdNews

Pro-Lifers Plan Retaliation for Health Bill Passage - Christian Post

McGurn: Pro-life Democrats, R.I.P. - Wall Street Journal

Donnelly’s decision - The Herald Argus

Rahall: Health bill the most pro-life vote in his life - Beckley Register-Herald

A Final FAQ on Healthcare and Abortion - First Things

Abortion restrictions approved - Topeka Capital Journal

Tories accuse Liberals of reopening abortion debate - Toronto Sun

States Sue Over Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill, Poll Shows Americans Supportive LifeNews.com

Health Insurance Reform: Bittersweet for Women’s History - Huffington Post

Obama Signs Historic Health Bill; Key Provisions Go into Effect in 2010 - Ms. Magazine

Stupak: Randy Neugebauer Should Apologize on House Floor for “Baby Killer” Remark - CBS News

A closer look at Bachmann’s ’30 percent increase in abortions’ claim - MinnPost.com

Reproductive Health – Priority or Poker Chip? Editorial – EmpowHer

Fiorina and the Republican primary – PoliGazette

‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’ season finale: Tackling abortion like … - Entertainment Weekly

Canadians approve funding contraceptives; maybe not abortion, for world?s poor … - The Canadian Press

Kansas House passes bill to narrow late-term abortion rules - Kansas City Star

Abortion still a divisive political issue - Toronto Sun

Stupak Can’t Hyde - Big Government

Pregnancy notice policy debated - Skokie Review

Democrats Find New Ground on Abortion - AOL News

New Health Care Legislation Includes Troubling Setbacks For Reproductive Rights - Common Dreams

Family planning absent from Canada’s G8 focus on women, child health - StarPhoenix

ANALYSIS – Abortion looms as election issue after US reforms - Reuters India

Family planning vote aimed at forcing Tory clarity on abortion ends in disarray – CHQR

Health Reform: Where Women Stand to Gain - U.S. News & World Report

The American people must repeal Obamacare - Desert Dispatch

Abortion restriction moves ahead - Topeka Capital Journal

Tories defeat motion on family planning - Montreal Gazette

Mother furious after in-school clinic sets up daughter’s abortion - Seattle Post Intelligencer

In Kenya, few choices to backstreet abortions - CNN International

Gloria Steinem: Health-Care Reform and a Woman’s Body - Women on the Web

Rep. Bart Stupak, at the heart of health care and abortion. – Slate

Obama to sign abortion exec order in private – Politico

Rutgers historian puts 50th anniversary of the pill into cultural medicine cabinet - Genetic Engineering News

Liberals press for ‘full range’ of family planning options in G8 plan - Globe and Mail

Bunnies and birth control - Hartford Courant

Tories defeat motion on family planning - Montreal Gazette

10 birth control choices for women - Creative Loafing Tampa

Tell the FDA to Act on Emergency Contraception – Feministe

Condoms offer 85% protection from HIV, says WHO - Philippine Information Agency

Religious summit engages religious leaders in the HIV response – UNAIDS

AIDS 2010 to Focus on Eastern Europe and Central Asia - Voice of America

Religious groups discuss ending AIDS stigma - The Associated Press

Religious Leaders to Fight HIV Stigma - Voice of America

Washington bans shackling of pregnant inmates - Seattle Times

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