Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion

So there I was watching the National on CBC. It’s been quite a few days of discussion, at least in Conservative circles, about the partisan affiliation (or appearance of as much) of pollster Frank Graves and his call for the Liberal mainstream to take up war against the Conservative horde. I hadn’t seen the National in a few weeks so I thought I’d give it a fair viewing.

Cue the top story of the day according to the CBC: abortion!

What we learned from the top story? That Canada’s long standing position on abortion faces “reversal” with CIDA minister Bev Oda’s pronunciation on the topic today. Canada will not help fund third world abortions as part of an initiative of maternal health.

But is it a reversal? There is actually no legislation from Parliament on the issue. There is no law restricting it, no law promoting it. Canada’s position if it can be stated, is that there’s NO position.

Yet, we learn that Canada’s non-position is about to be reversed. No, not that it’s taking a firm position on its domestic policy with respect to abortion, but that Canada will continue to not fund third world abortions. This is a reversal according to The National. Nevermind that Canada’s non-position domestically is not even a fair lens through which to view our international status quo position, it’s a “reversal”.

If from that you’ve sorted it all out, perhaps you’re on the right side of Frank Graves’ culture war. But me? I’m sitting on the sideline scratching my head.

Let’s add some more confusion. The Liberals and media frame the Conservative position as “out of step” with that of the UK and the US. Let’s set aside that when the US didn’t fund third world abortions it was called the “Bush” position rather than the “US” position. But hey why not check the United Nations position on abortion:

From the United Nations Population Fund, paragraph 8.25 states:

“In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. All Governments and relevant intergovernmental and non governmental organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women’s health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning services. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest priority and all attempts should be made to eliminate the need for abortion. Women who have unwanted pregnancies should have ready access to reliable information and compassionate counselling. Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances in which abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe. In all cases women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Post abortion counselling, education and family planning services should be offered promptly which will also help to avoid repeat abortions.”

and just to drive the point home:

Does the UN provide funding for abortion?

No. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the main United Nations body involved in population issues, does not support or promote abortion in any country, nor does it provide assistance for abortion services or abortion-related equipment and supplies. It strictly abides by the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which states that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning”. UNFPA works to prevent abortion through family planning, and helps countries to provide services for women suffering from the complications of unsafe abortions. The Fund helps developing countries to establish national reproductive health programmes and reduce maternal illness and death, as well as in family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. UNFPA also helps countries compile reliable demographic data and carry out censuses. As the largest international source of population assistance, UNFPA is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.

So, where’s the headline? Harper doesn’t change status quo but “reverses” an undefined policy that is by not only undefined but by the definition of “undefined”, irreversible?

Or is the headline “Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion”?

Consider this: Perhaps the real story is that Mr. Ignatieff — having defined himself as “Mr. Internationalism” and a leader who would “regain Canada’s place in the world” — now is out of step with the very embodiment of internationalism that all DFAITers pine after.

But perhaps this internationalist position isn’t as fashionable to Mr. Ignatieff is it? If it were, we think he’d be all over it like soy milk on Kasha.

Now, that I’m done watching the National, I better turn the channel. The Hour is on and its George on George. Strombo woopin up the audience for his next guest, George Galloway.

The culture war is underway.

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