Canada's Harper to Chair UN Women's Health Fund

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Harper's announced policy in May of 2010 drew criticism from medical authorities in Canada and abroad, with the editors of the British medical journal, The Lancet, blasting his policy, saying;

“This stance must change … The Canadian Government does not deprive women living in Canada from access to safe abortions; it is therefore hypocritical and unjust that it tries to do so abroad.”

Canada's former ambassador to the United Nations, and leading light in the fight against the worldwide spread of AIDS, Stephen Lewis too was unimpressed with the role Mr. Harper was set to take up, saying;

"You don't need all the accountability and all the arithmetic. You just need a serious international politician, well-placed to make sure the countries are applying the money to reduce maternal and child mortality."

Harper apparently agrees, and sees himself as the "serious" one to provide that "well-placed leadership," sharing his view of the duties necessary, saying;

"Helping save the lives of mothers and children in the developing world — it is all about principled leadership."

That may be well and good enough, but for women's health proponents it rings hollow in light of the Harper government's official position, as iterated in the nation's Parliament last April by Jim Abbott, the Tory parliamentary secretary to the International Co-operation Minister, who said;

"We're focused on how to make a positive difference to save the lives of mothers and children in the developing world. Canada's contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning, however, Canada's contribution will not include funding abortion."

The government's position drew criticism from New Democratic Party leader, Jack Layton who typified the move as "unfortunate" for women's health efforts, saying;

"They've been trying to hide their position on funding of comprehensive programs for children's and women's health including legal abortion and Mr. Harper said that he didn't want to reopen the issue. Now what this does is it puts Canada offside with the consensus in the G8 on the global effort to improve women and children's health which in a comprehensive program has got to include all of the tools, all of the approaches in a legal context. I think it's very unfortunate."  

The CBC quotes the "international aid sector" as being "divided" on the prospects for success of the commission's mission "on the ground."


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