Speaks for itself
I don't like to give politicians free reign rein but I have to say that I endorse every word of this Liberal party of Canada news release, posted here without any edits. I did add some links.
Today, Liberal MPs Carolyn Bennett, Maria Minna and Anita Neville released the following open letter to International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda:
Dear Minister Oda:
We are writing today to urge you to reconsider your ill-advised decision to not include Canada’s longstanding support for contraception and reproductive health services as part of your recently-announced maternal and infant health initiative for some of the world’s poorest countries.
By refusing to fund programs that respect women’s reproductive rights – including contraception and reproductive health services – you are allowing ideological differences to get in the way of good health care and gender equality.
While immunization, access to clean water, better nutrition and improved training for health-care workers are all important to the health and safety of women and girls, addressing the real issues underlying poor maternal and infant health requires that the full gamut of options be made available to promote educated family planning and gender equality. Anything less is a mere bandaid solution.
We are particularly concerned when we see members of your government spreading false information on this issue. In a recent editorial, Conservative MPs Maurice Vellacott and Brad Trost tell readers that there is “no evidence” to back up claims that proper education, resources and support would reduce maternal death and complications – when in fact there is substantial factual evidence.
Just an excerpt from that editorial, penned by two TheoCon MPs who are clearly experts on what is good for women:
As Ian Gentles, research director at the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, noted in a recent National Post article, Poland virtually prohibited abortion 20 years ago. Since then, maternal mortality has decreased by 75 per cent, infant mortality by almost 66 per cent, and the rate of premature births by more than 50 per cent.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2009, Ireland, the only other European country where abortion is illegal, has the lowest maternal mortality ratio of any country, with one death per 100,000 live births.
Back to the release:
A 2006 International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) report ("Death and Denial: Unsafe Abortion and Poverty") demonstrates that women who can’t access reproductive health services are more likely to obtain an unsafe abortion, and more likely to die as a result of pregnancy, childbirth or unsafe abortion.
Recent research by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (PDF) makes a compelling case for greater international support for sexual and reproductive health programs.
The report states that satisfying the unmet need for contraceptive services in developing countries would avert 52 million unintended pregnancies annually, which, in turn, would save more than 1.5 million lives and prevent 505,000 children from losing their mothers.
The key findings of the report are that maternal deaths in developing countries could be slashed by 70 per cent and newborn deaths cut nearly in half if the world doubled its investment in family planning and pregnancy-related care. It states that “investing in both family planning and maternal newborn services can achieve the same dramatic outcomes for $1.5 billion less than investing in maternal and newborn services alone.”
The risk of maternal mortality increases with each pregnancy. Yet research shows that 215 million women who would like to delay or avoid childbearing do not have access to modern contraception. Providing contraception to those who want it would avert about one-third of maternal deaths.
About 20 million women have unsafe abortions every year. About 8.5 million of those women need hospital care for complications, but that is not available to about three million of these women.
According to the UN Population Division, 61 percent of the world’s population live in countries where abortion is permitted. Providing safe abortion services where abortion is legal would prevent many of the estimated 68,000 deaths of women each year from complications arising from unsafe abortions.
But this issue goes beyond adequate health care. International human rights law states very clearly that maternal mortality constitutes a violation of the right to life and is linked to or results from violations of many other human rights, including the rights to health, education, equality and non-discrimination.
Canada is a signatory to several agreements that commit to providing a full range of safe and reliable family planning methods and reproductive health services. The Development Assistance Accountability Act, for example, requires that any assistance provided by Canada be consistent with international human rights standards. In June 2009, a UN Human Rights Council resolution also committed Canada to provide “the effective promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls” which includes “sexual and reproductive health.”
Most notably, Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself signed onto last year’s G8 Leader’s statement, which clearly promotes accelerating progress on combating child mortality, including through “sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning.”
Getting beyond addressing the symptoms of poverty means giving women the resources they need to make decisions about their lives, which is the key to lifting entire communities out of destitution.
Based on what we’ve seen from your government thus far, we have every reason to be concerned. Your government has launched a systematic assault against women’s equality here in Canada. You have banned the words “gender equality” from the lexicon of the department of Foreign Affairs and Status of Women Canada. You have cut funding to Status of Women and scrapped the Court Challenges Program. And you have downgraded pay equity from a non-negotiable right to a bargaining chip.
In conclusion, we once again urge you to reverse your position around your maternal and infant health initiative. We ask you to fight for what is right and reasonable, and in the best interests of all women. It is only when women and their families are given access to all family planning and reproductive health options that we will truly be successful at helping to lift them out of poverty.
The Hon. Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Liberal Health Critic and former Public Health Minister
The Hon. Maria Minna, Chair of Liberal Women’s Caucus and former Minister for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
The Hon. Anita Neville, Liberal Status of Women Critic and former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister Responsible for Status of Women
Meanwhile, the National Post thinks I am ''hyperventilating'' over the Harper government's attacks on women's rights.
IMAGE: Lifted from this spoof site mocking Vellacott and Trost for their stance on same sex rights.