Thursday, June 24, 2010

Poll says a majority of Canadians disagree with Harper's anti-abortion stance on the International Maternal Health Initiative

Less than 2 months after the largest pro-life rally Ottawa has ever seen (according to the Toronto Star), a poll conducted by Ipsos Reid shows that approximately 56% of Canadians are against Harper's anti-abortion stance concerning the international maternal health initiative. The results were published just two days before Canada's initiative is to be presented at the G8 summit in Toronto.

Without more information it's a little hard to say what exactly this means. However, one thing that comes through loud and clear is that more than half of those surveyed realize that abortion is a necessary component of a comprehensive approach to improving maternal health. The WHO said as part of its Global Strategy on Reproductive Health in 2004,

As a preventable cause of maternal mortality and morbidity, unsafe abortion must be dealt with as part of the MDG on improving maternal health and other international development goals and targets.

Since the initiative's aim is to reduce maternal mortality and improve the lives and health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries, Harper's decision to not provide funding or access to safe, legal abortion actually counters these goals. For one thing, women who are desperate enough will seek an abortion regardless of whether it's safe or legal - and the women who make up much of this demographic are those living in poverty with little or no other options available to them. According to the World Health Organization, a woman dies approximately every 8 minutes in third-world countries because of complications from unsafe abortions. Almost half of all women in third-world countries who seek abortions obtain them unsafely and/or illegally. The methods used include drinking turpentine, bleach, or tea made with manure, placing foreign bodies such as a stick, coat hanger, or chicken bone into the uterus, or jumping from the top of a flight of stairs or a building to induce a miscarriage (WHO stats).

While roughly 60% of all women who obtain unsafe abortions worldwide are between the ages of 15-24, many women already have children. So not only are the women themselves losing their lives, but tens of thousands of children are losing their mothers each year to unsafe abortions. Putting restrictions on abortion won't curb its incidence, either, as demonstrated by the WHO's stats on abortion. Abortions occur at a rate of 29 per 1000 women aged 15-44 in Africa, where abortion is illegal in most countries, whereas the rate is 28 per 1000 in Europe, where it is generally legal. The lowest abortion rates in the world are in countries where there are little or no legal restrictions.

This is something that anti-abortionists fail to recognize when railing against legalized and non-restricted abortion. If they really, truly cared about reducing the abortion rate, they would accept its being legal and accessible. Sadly, however, most anti-abortionists only see the issue in black and white: abortion means killing a baby, and that is wrong, end of story. There is no nuance or room for exceptions, including rape, incest, and complete lack of other options, which is the case for many women in third world countries. Come on; if women are willing to consume manure or risk killing themselves jumping off a building in order to self-abort an unplanned pregnancy, that speaks volumes about how many other options they have. Can you imagine being that desperate, in such a hopeless situation? Try it, and then try to justify the leader of a country with no restrictions on abortion telling you that they're not going to provide funding for you to have the same low-risk, probably life-saving procedure.

If Stephen Harper or Bev Oda truly cared about saving women's lives, they would not be preventing Canada from funding safe, legal abortions in third world countries. If they had an ounce of sense or ability to understand statistics, they would not be so dead-set against providing comprehensive maternal health care to the women in the world who absolutely need it the most.

Want to tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda why this plan is dangerous and goes against the wishes of a majority of Canadians? Contact them at and/or

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