Abortion fight ignores the bigger picture

Peter Jackson
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The Reform Party may be securely ensconced in the national Conservative Party of Canada, but the former party’s proclivity for loose-cannon backbenchers is still a thorn in the Tories’ side.

The latest incarnations: two MPs are echoing allegations from south of the border that Planned Parenthood is using taxpayers’ money to not only perform abortions, but actually promote them in Third World countries.

The rantings of Saskatchewan’s Brad Trost and Maurice Vellacott are particularly troubling. They are only the latest adherents to a lobby in the United States to stop government funding to Planned Parenthood altogether. It’s a witch hunt, fuelled by misinformation and pro-life hysteria.

Vellacott is particularly rabid.

Spurred by a recent $6-million grant to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) from the Harper government, he rails that Canadian taxpayers are being “conned” into funding abortions abroad, even in countries where it is technically illegal.

For example, he said, the IPPF performs first-trimester abortions in Bangladesh, where they refer to the unregulated vacuuming procedure as “menstruation regulation” and “establishing non-pregnancy.”

And even where the IPPF is not channeling taxpayer funds directly into abortions, says Vellacott, government grants free up funds from other sources.

And there, in a nutshell, is the problem.

Like so many of his U.S. counterparts, Vellacott has become irrational about an organization that includes abortion as an option among the many services it provides to its clients. It doesn’t matter that abortion is perfectly legal in Canada and the U.S., and that the IPPF has a much broader mandate to promote healthy sexual education and practices.

For Vellacott and his ilk, Planned Parenthood presents abortion as an option. Therefore, it is a “nefarious” pedlar of death. Period.

The focus on overseas activities only masks a core campaign in the U.S. to stamp out the organization altogether. This would be a travesty.

In answering to its critics, for example, one Planned Parenthood affiliate in the U.S. points out that the vast majority of its services are preventive.

“Over 90 per cent of Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ (PPIL) services are preventive, including lifesaving cervical and breast cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, contraceptive services, and more,” reads a statement on the IPPF website.

“In fiscal year 2010, PPIL provided 19,572 cervical cancer screenings, 21,393 breast exams, and 34,770 STI tests. The funding cuts would deny 60 per cent of PPIL patients, or nearly 40,000 Illinoisans, and approximately 1.4 (million) Planned Parenthood patients nationwide, from their main source of health care.”

With respect to worldwide activities, meanwhile, Vellacott says providing abortion services abroad “contradicts a criterion for Prime Minister’s Stephen Harper’s noble initiative to save the lives of women and children in developing countries.”

Ironically, the Canadian Press reported last week that a World Health Organization analysis showed abortion rates in Africa actually rose after the U.S. stopped funding organizations that provided abortions or abortion counselling.

The research supported what critics have said all along about the Harper government’s refusal to fund abortion as part of its maternal health initiative in Africa. Limiting funding to organizations that provide a whole range of family planning only increases unwanted pregnancies and drives more women to have dangerous illegal abortions.

In short, hamstringing Planned Parenthood is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor.

Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: International Planned Parenthood Federation, Reform Party, Conservative Party of Canada STI Canadian Press World Health Organization

Geographic location: United States, Saskatchewan, Bangladesh Canada Africa Illinois

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Recent comments

  • Colin Burke
    October 14, 2011 - 09:42

    Hello again, Mr. Morrison. Do you have any elderly Italian gentlemen to quote about being a referee while you're actively playing?

  • Carl
    October 12, 2011 - 11:33

    If Mr. Jackson wants to write about "irrational" positions on abortion, or the "travesty" of abortion policy, he should focus on the following: 1. Canada has no abortion law whatsoever, making abortion legal on demand anytime before the child is born. This despite the fact that three quarters of Canadians opposed late-term abortions. 2. This status quo flies in the face of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Canada's previous abortion law. That ruling called on Parliament to pass a new abortion law that gave reasonable access to abortion but set a gestational limit on abortion sometime in the second trimester. 3. The House of Commons did pass a law that would have respected the Supreme Court ruling and banned late-term abortions, but that law was killed by a tied vote in the unelected Senate. 4. Even Henry Morgentaler, whose case led to the Supreme Court ruling, opposes late-term abortions. He acknowledges that a foetus becomes a baby at some point during the second trimester, and opposes abortions beyond that point. In sum, there is nothing rational at all about Canada's current approach to abortion. Parliament should revisit the issue and pass a sensible law to deal with it.

  • Herb Morrison
    October 07, 2011 - 19:53

    I tend to agree wuith what 0ne person said many years ago, when one of Pope Benedict VI' S predecessors issued the first encyclical condemning any artificial form of birth control. An elderly Italian gentleman is reputed to have said: : "You no play the game, you no make the rules."

  • Colin Burke
    October 06, 2011 - 10:33

    "...hamstringing Planned Parenthood is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater." What a marvellously keen insight! What exactly does abortion do to the baby? Doesn't even contraception hoard bathwater for babies who won't be around to use it?