The Canadian government has declared it will no longer fund abortions in developing countries as part of its G8 maternal and child health care initiative.
Reversing a policy that has been in place for nearly three decades, and departing from the positions of G8 allies including Britain and the United States, Canada’s International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda said the government would consider funding family planning measures such as contraception, but not abortion.
“We’re not debating abortion; we’re clarifying family planning,” she said.
Canada is playing host to this year’s G8 summit, declaring the health of mothers and children in poor countries its top foreign aid initiative.
Government officials say they intend to focus the plan on measures that include safe drinking water and vaccination programs, but not abortion.
Critics say Canada’s ideological stand is denying poor countries freedoms it provides its own citizens. “We are saying to the countries that are the poorest: ‘We won’t apply the law that we have in Canada,’” said Liberal MP Bob Rae.
Last month, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said any efforts to improve maternal health should include access to safe and legal abortions.
International health and women’s groups have also said any omission of abortion contradicts objectives laid out at previous G8 summits.