A few weeks ago, the Conservative government of Canada introduced a new foreign aid policy that excluded family planning (that's everything from advice on birth control to access to legal abortions) until people got wind of it and forced a bunch of political flip-flopping.
The Liberal opposition tried to score some quick political points by moving to explicitely include family planning, but messed up by not securing the anti-abortion MPs in their ranks. (Seriously, how can you call yourself a big- or small-l liberal if you're willing to let personal preference override public policy? They should note the example of former PM Paul Martin led the legalization of gay marriage despite personal reservations and a threat from his parish to excommunicate him if he voted for it.)
There was finally a clear and unequivical statement on the issue, but it wasn't made by the leaders of the Canadian parliament. It was from Hilary Clinton, who was in town for a G8 meeting. Here's what she said:
"You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health," Ms. Clinton said at a news conference after a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Gatineau, Que. "And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion. [...] "I've also been very involved in promoting family planning and contraception as a way to prevent abortion. If you're concerned about abortion, then women should have access to family planning," Ms. Clinton said. "And finally, I do not think governments should be involved in making these decisions."
There was some partisan wank about this, but ultimately, she was just stating what Canadians believe, according to a new EKOS survey:
52 per cent of Canadians describe themselves as “pro-choice;” 27 per cent say they are “pro-life;” 10 per cent chose “neither” and 11 per cent opted for “do not know or no response.”
A statement like Clinton's, one of much welcome clarity, should form the basis of our policy on maternal health in foreign aid, not fundamentalist beliefs of a handful of cabinet ministers.