News: Government says contraception doesn’t save women’s lives’are they living in the past?

Dear Prime Minister, Have you somehow managed to secretly put us all in a Conservative time machine and set the


Dear Prime Minister,

Have you somehow managed to secretly put us all in a Conservative time machine and set the Flux Capacitor to the year 1950? Because that’s the only explanation I’ve come up with for why you have left contraception out of Canada’s ‘signature’ G8 summit initiative to improve maternal health in poorer countries. Don’t get me wrong; Canada’s pledge to make maternal health the top issue at June’s G8 summit is a very modern idea. As president of the G8 this year, Canada’s pledge to lead the world in improving women’s health is very 2010.

But Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon says the reason the initiative does not address contraception is that the plan deals with saving lives and not with family planning, the Globe and Mail reports. The idea that access to contraception doesn’t save lives is clearly 1950s thinking. According to the WHO, ‘About 18 million unsafe abortions are carried out in developing countries every year, resulting in 70 000 maternal deaths. Many of these deaths could be prevented if information on family planning and contraceptives were available and put into practice.’ Here’s another troubling WHO fact: In many countries, the risk of maternal death is twice as high for adolescent women as for older women.

So we must all have travelled back in time to hear your foreign minister say that family planning doesn’t fit with an initiative to prevent maternal deaths, right? Or is it that you’re equating family planning with abortion and thus avoiding the issue of contraception altogether in order to gain support from more Conservatives, as Katherine McDonald, executive director of Action Canada for Population and Development, suggests in the Globe and Mail?

If we all piled back into the DeLorean and came back to the year 2010, surely we would see a modern-day initiative that would aim to provide more women with the means to prevent unwanted pregnancies as a strategy for preventing unsafe abortions.

Readers, what do you think? Can you get behind an initiative to improve maternal health that doesn’t address contraception?

Updated to add: According to the CBC, Stephen Harper is now saying the maternal health plan may include contraception. Democracy at work?

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