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Canada pulls a blanket over the abortion debate

May 26, 2010

This post is part of a series leading up to the Women Deliver conference (www.womendeliver.org), a global meeting on maternal and reproductive health and the advancement of women and girls. Women Deliver 2010 will push for an additional $12 billion in increased investment from G8 for programs to improve maternal health.

Backroom abortion ad photo via The Globe and Mail

This past April, a story emerged of a ten-year-old girl in Mexico who was raped and impregnated by her stepfather and then later denied an abortion. While abortion is restricted or banned in most of Mexico’s states, it is legal in the girl’s home state. However, the legal limit to have an abortion was during the first 90 days of the pregnancy and she was already pregnant a month over the limit. So why wasn’t she able to have the abortion while she had the chance?

Advocacy groups are saying that the state did not properly inform the girl of her abortion rights. The state claims that they did not know how far along the girl was in her pregnancy and that she and the fetus are doing just fine. But state legislator, Maria Haded, says that going through with the pregnancy could create mental and physical problems for the girl.

“It’s not just a high-risk pregnancy. It’s a pregnancy that puts the girl at risk,” – Maria Haded

Now 11, the girl has since decided to keep the baby despite severe warnings to her health from women’s rights groups. Though her story has made her the symbol of the abortion debate in Mexico and has even garnered international attention in the media world, there are hundreds of others in situations just like her–in which they do not have access to abortion rights–that we likely will never hear of.

As I briefly mentioned last week, the G-8 summit is being held in Ontario, Canada towards the end of June. For this meeting, Canada has pledged to put reproductive rights for developing countries at the centre of its discussion. However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already declared that while Canada will be directing funding for family planning and contraceptives, Canada will not be spending any of its money on abortion. It’s a fairly strange and contradictory move for a couple of reasons. As Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, pointed out, “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions.” Here, Harper seems to be trying to score points with the more conservative population of Canada but at the same time women in Canada already have the abortion rights that Harper is denying in developing countries. So what gives?

In Africa, unsafe abortions kill 25, 000 and injures 1.7 million women every year. This mostly has to do with the fact that abortions are prohibited in fourteen of Africa’s countries, which makes the majority of abortions a backroom deal. In considering these numbers alone, one can see how critical a blow Canada’s lack of support to fund abortions is and why it should take Clinton’s statement more seriously. If maternal health really is at the top of Canada’s list of G-8 priorities, then it needs to, along with the rest of the G-8 countries, put pressure on African countries to lift abortion bans but also promise support so that abortions can not only be performed legally, but safely.

12 Comments
  1. Areebah Shahid permalink
    May 26, 2010 9:41 am

    It is just plain frustrating how far the govts. can go to protect patriachy wherever and whatever form possible..

  2. This Supid Lamb permalink
    May 26, 2010 11:52 am

    She is past three months, it is a baby! At this point not even pro-choicers can not deny this fact. I agree she should have been informed properly and that is on the state she is in. Also this quote is crazy “despite severe warnings to her health from women’s rights groups.” I am sorry but they are not medical professionals. Being pro-choice does not automatically make you a doctor. Obviously there are risks, but only a doctor can determine them. More then likely she will have to have a cesarean.

    • May 26, 2010 12:27 pm

      I don’t think anyone here claimed that respecting women and girl’s bodily autonomy makes one a doctor, nor is calling a statement “crazy” a very strong argument (it is also, incidentally, rather ableist). For a girl whose body has not completed development, pregnancy will take a very serious toll, though you are correct that the exact risks can only be determined by a doctor, which is precisely why laws shouldn’t be getting in the way of allowing people to make decisions based on their doctor’s advice.

    • May 26, 2010 1:58 pm

      I probably should have mentioned that state legislator Maria Haded believes that the girl’s doctors are withholding information from her with regards to the health risks.

      Also, there’s an article worth reading, This Supid Lamb, at Advocates for Youth about Adolescent Maternal Mortality. You are right that they may not be doctors and cannot determine the exact risks of the pregnancy but there is a lot of power in statistics…

    • Jules permalink
      May 26, 2010 2:48 pm

      “Being pro-choice does not automatically make you a doctor. “Though I don’t believe anyone was even insisting this, it should also be equally stated that “Being pro-life does not make you “God””

      and 3 months in womb does not make a baby it makes a 3 month old fetus.

  3. Bushfire permalink
    May 30, 2010 5:46 pm

    Canadian women are very angry over Stephen Harper’s decision. The Toronto police are already making huge investments into G8 security because so many groups have promised to protest. Harper is definietly catering to the religious right and is angered centre-to left Canadians.

  4. Mitz permalink
    June 26, 2010 2:55 pm


    This is quite an old video, but it shows the heart beat of the baby going from 120bpm to 200bpm
    when it’s been aborted, IS THAT NOT IT FEELING PAIN?????. It also shows the mouth opening. Is this the silent scream of a 12wk old fetus?? It may need to be done in exceptional circumstances i.e health reasons for mother or baby..but why do some women wait until 24wks… 6mths of pregnancy to get rid of their baby??? that’s wrong

  5. Mitz permalink
    June 26, 2010 2:56 pm

    I do agree with abortion in the case of health or a rape or a young pregancy.

  6. July 13, 2010 4:31 pm

    So, what happened to the man who raped her? Why not change some rape laws, because so many woman and children get raped every year, maybe if we had tougher laws for rape, this problem would go down a lot.

    • July 13, 2010 5:24 pm

      The stepfather was arrested and charged with rape–I’m unable to find any more information beyond that, though it’s possible the verdict wasn’t announced yet.

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  1. Women Deliver Series: Examining Maternal and Reproductive Health and the Empowerment of Women and Girls « Gender Across Borders
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