Inside Politics

UPDATED: Is Oda softening on abortion in maternal health initiative?

Wish I could answer that question.

According to Thursday's Ottawa Citizen, CIDA Minister Bev Oda, after a visit to Mali and Mozambique, has changed her views on the role of safe abortions in maternal health.

Here is what she said, according to that newspaper about what role family planning and abortion plays, when it comes to maternal health in the developing world:

Asked if you could improve maternal mortality rates without family planning, Oda, during a telephone interview, replied: "Of course not."

Oda said the governments of Mozambique and Mali are both highly supportive of family planning, including abortion in some cases, and they like working with Canada, because it is considered very flexible. "We are not seen as having stipulated certain paradigms ... or having any particular direction. We say 'How can we help? What is the most effective way?'"

And then, according to the CitizenOda said Canada would support abortion infrastructure if asked. "As long as it is legal within the country and it's a legal procedure ... if we were asked to help in that way, we would do that."

This is all a bit of a departure from Oda's comments leading up to the G8 when, speaking for the government, she reluctantly acknowledged Canada might include family planning in its maternal health inititaive but that there would be no funding for abortions.

So, late yesterday, a Canadian Press story crossed the wires quoting PMO spokesperson Dimitri Soudas and Oda's spokesperson, Jessica Fletcher. Both saying the government's position has not changed. 

Soudas said: "We've been clear that we will not be funding abortion."

And Fletcher said that the minister's comments were "taken out of context and misrepresent the government's position."

So, what we'd like to know, just to clarify,how were those comments taken out of context? What exactly did Minister Oda say to the Citizen? Soudas says the government has been clear, but Oda's latest comments make it about as clear as mud.

I'll put in a call to Oda's office and let you know what I find out.

UPDATED: Call is in to Oda's office. In the meantime, here is further clarification from Citizen journalist behind the column, Elizabeth Payne.

UPDATED 2: The following landed in my inbox late Friday from Oda's spokesperson, Jessica Fletcher (IPPF stands for International Planned Parenthood Federation):

Liz Payne writes that according to Minister Oda, the government is on the verge of re-funding IPPF.  This is inaccurate.  The Minister, when asked about IPPF, merely suggested that IPPF, as with all organizations, may submit a proposal for consideration.  They have not submitted a proposal for funding under our G-8 initiative.

Further, the Minister was asked a hypothetical question on whether, if asked to build a hospital, in a country where abortion is legal, Canada would as a result, be indirectly supporting abortion.  If asked to build a hospital in a country where abortion is legal, Canada would not dictate what medical procedures are carried out in that hospital.  There has never been a request for Canada, whether within the scope of its G-8 initiative or outside, to support infrastructure that would directly improve access to abortion.      




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