Canada pulls a blanket over the abortion debate
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.
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.