G8 maternal health initiative draws flak
A Canadian initiative to improve maternal health programs in the world's poorest nations continues to draw criticism just two days before it will be presented at the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont.
The so-called Muskoka initiative aims to improve mortality rates of mothers, newborns and children in part by providing them better access to health care and what the government has called "family planning."
Family planning, according to the Conservatives' plan, does not include funding for abortion services, however, an omission that Britain and the United States have already criticized.
On Wednesday, the standing committee on the status of women released a report calling on the government to take a more "comprehensive approach" to family planning that includes abortion wherever it is legal.
The committee is made up of members of all parties, but the Conservative members did not participate in the report's release.
"If you've got a clinic that is supported by Canadian dollars and a young woman comes in in need of an abortion, is the director of the clinic going to say 'Well, no, sorry, you have to go a thousand miles down the road because we have Canadian dollars here?'" asked NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, a member of the committee.
"A comprehensive approach to maternal and child health is more effective," the report said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced a similar opinion at a G8 foreign ministers meeting in Gatineau, Que., in March.
"You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health, and that includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions," Clinton said.
In April, then British foreign secretary David Miliband said Britain, too, felt the initiative should include access to abortion.
The initiative is one of five the Conservatives will focus on at the G8 summit, which begins Friday.
With files from the CBC's Susan Lunn