[redsock guest post]
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon explains why contraception will be excluded from the Harper government's initiative (to be presented at June's G8 summit) to improve the health of women in poor countries:
[Contraception] does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives.
Mr. Cannon is a liar and a buffoon and supports the torture of innocent people, but I find it difficult to accept that he truly believes birth control has nothing whatsoever to do with a couple planning how many children to have and when to have them. It's like saying breathing has nothing to do with remaining alive.
Katherine McDonald, executive director of Action Canada for Population and Development: "This is really playing to the base in tractor-loads rather than with shovels." An editorial in the Globe and Mail wonders if the policy "stems from a fear of alienating a small base of extremely conservative voters who oppose birth control".
The opposition parties are incredulous. Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett stated during Question Period that, according to the United Nations, a "lack of adequate contraceptive services is responsible for 1.5 million deaths in developing countries every year."
Yes, but Cannon wants to "save lives", so taking simple actions that will prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths is quite irrelevant.
G&M columnist Jane Taber notes: "This was the first Question Period in a long time that the Liberals did [not] focus on the Afghan detainee issue." Hoping to run away and hide from the torture allegations by proroguing Parliament did not work, so it's extremely doubtful that this head-line grabber will succeed in permanently changing the subject.
Jay Gribble, co-author and vice president of International Programs at the Population Reference Bureau, states the obvious. Family planning:
permits the healthy spacing of births, prevents the spread of HIV, reduces the number of low birth-weight babies, allows for longer breastfeeding, prevents unplanned pregnancies and abortions, and averts deaths from childbirth that leave infants and their siblings motherless and poorly cared for.
A 2007 report by the Disease Control Priorities Project - funded by the World Bank and other groups - lists pregnancy planning as one of the "most effective and promising interventions" for reducing the death rates of mothers.
The United Nations Population Fund reports that 500,000 women die every year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, leaving more than one million children without mothers. Access to contraception could prevent around 40% of maternal deaths worldwide.
[L again with a reminder: women's rights are human rights. Without control of our reproduction, women can never be free and equal participants in the world. Contraception is integral to women's health and women's lives - but it is more than than that. Access to contraception is essential to human dignity, equality and freedom.]
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Update: Harper flip-flops: "We are not closing doors against any options including contraception." Yet another sudden change of belief, coming closely on the heels of backtracking on funding of Internet service for rural and low-income Canadians. And the National Post notes that on Wednesday, "the Conservatives held three different positions on the potential ban of '10-percenter' mailings in the space of three hours". Impressive!