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‘We must not let it distract us from the great opportunity that lies before us’


 

Liberal Keith Martin takes stock of the abortion debate and offers a solution.

With respect to the thorny issue of abortion, Mr. Harper should embrace the standard medical position championed by the World Health Organization, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and indeed previous Liberal and Conservative governments. This position is to support women’s access to safe abortions in those countries where it is legal. Many members of the Conservative government may have their own personal opposition to abortion, and this must be respected. However, they do not have the right to force their views on others when it runs counter to the prevailing scientific consensus…

Mr. Harper can square his opposition to abortion while implementing an effective plan to reduce maternal and childhood mortality by proposing that each G8 country take the lead in one of the inputs required to address this tragic situation. For example, Canada could be the lead nation on training healthcare workers and micronutrients, another country could focus on providing medications, another on access to family planning and safe abortions, etc. In this way, a comprehensive plan that focuses on enabling the world’s poorest to access basic primary care services can be implemented, with the G8 countries dividing responsibilities and target resources.


 

‘We must not let it distract us from the great opportunity that lies before us’

  1. It actually gets better. HRClinton strongly endorsed contraception and family planning measures today. She also thinks governments should not get involved in these issues.

    There are so many things piling up on high for Harper this G8, and we haven't even started with the G20 yet.

  2. "Many members of the Conservative government may have their own personal opposition to abortion, and this must be respected. However, they do not have the right to force their views on others when it runs counter to the prevailing scientific consensus…"

    I like a lot of things about Martin, but he's really off the mark here. How does not funding abortion "force" anything on anyone? If anything, forcing us (and by "us" I mean "millions of pro-life Canadians", not just "members of the Conservative government"…what happened to the pro-life members of the LPC he somehow forgets to mention?) to pay for abortions is "forcing" the views of the WHO on us….which would seem to fly in the face of "respecting" our personal disgust for abortion.

    Also this bit about "scientific consensus" – what, it's a scientific consensus that we should fund abortion? Or that abortion is ethically no problem? I presume he means "statistical argument that abortion saves mothers' lives" when he says "scientific consensus"….which is (a) statistics, not science, (b) not likely to be more than 1% of abortions funded, and (c) conveniently forgetful of that other life, the much younger woman, that gets taken in an abortion.

    • First, regardless of what happens with Harper's initiatives, pro-life Canadians already fund abortions here in Canada by way of our health care system. There is no reason why funding them here is ok, while funding them in other countries shouldn't be, provided we've accepted that we're sending money to those countries for a purpose which access to safe abortions is relevant. Of course, the argument can certainly be made that we shouldn't be funding them here, but since Harper has clearly stated that he doesn't want to open that door, then he should remain consistent with our past stance both here and abroad. By allowing one while cutting the other, Harper is trying to enforce the views of one side where he can get away with it, without having the debate, and that is shameful on issues as controversial as this.

      Secondly, statistics that describe real world events are science. That's called observation and is fundamental in virtually every field of science. Yes, in applied or social sciences, there's less of a theoretical framework to explain those observations, but it's all still science. Yeah, scientific consensus is probably the wrong term here, but clear statistics are meaningful and should be given consideration when deciding on a course of action.

  3. Please explain (c), Gaunilon. Is the "much younger and completely helpless woman" the fetus ???!!?

  4. This issue is really complex, because:
    A) Not funding therapeutic abortion (read: abortions where, if not performed, the mother and/or child stand high likelihood of death upon childbirth) because of an ideological orientation toward the pro-life stance is indirectly forcing the pro-life result on the mother, while at the same time
    B) Funding therapeutic abortion because of an ideological orientation toward the pro-choice stance is indirectly forcing taxpayers to accept the pro-choice result on their wallets.

    My views on abortion, for the most part, aren't strongly held, not because I'm a moron, rather, because I'm not comfortable with an absolute "pro choice" or "pro life" stance.

  5. Yep, when she's female. Of course sometimes the fetus is a boy instead.

  6. I'd just like to mention that "No More Non-Partisan" came up with this very idea on these very boards one week ago. I thought it was a great idea then, and I still think so now.

    Just remember not to argue against the idea now that it's come from the mouth of a Liberal, No More Non-Partisan. :)

  7. Other than the use of the phrase "enforce the views of one side" to describe "not enforcing the views of one side" and perhaps adding the words "part of" after the phrase "statistics that describe real world events" there is nothing in your comment with which I disagree.

  8. I usually think that Martin is a pretty smart guy, but he's out to lunch here. His timing is brutal, seeing as his own party just demonstrated how split they, and all Canadians are on this issue. Most Canadians will also see through his accusation that the Conservative's are attempting to "force their views on others". Not funding something that is illegal in many countries does not mean we're forcing our views on others, in fact it's the exact opposite.

  9. Sometimes it's just a clump of cells.

  10. "Social "science" isn't science: science requires rigorous explanation of natural phenomena."

    Ok, that gave me a good laugh.

    Look, I'm the first to criticize the social sciences for making unsubstantiated claims, putting confidence in poor assumptions or failing to provide testable hypotheses, but there is nothing inherently unscientific about the social sciences.

    Natural sciences often lack rigor as well – sure, they eventually get to it, if possible, but it's not a given. The mechanism for evolution wasn't discovered for decades after the theory was proposed. Quantum mechanics was an act of desperation at first – it wasn't even a guess. Besides theoretical physics and particle physics, pretty much all the sciences are a matter of observation, guess at an explanation, confirm/attempt to falsify. Social sciences can do the exact same (even if they often don't).

    As for the other part, my point is only that if Harper doesn't want the debate, he shouldn't be changing the status quo. If he wants to open the debate, then I think that's more than warranted and it may well lead to and end to both domestic and foreign abortions. But he can't have his cake and eat it too. If he wants to avoid the debate, he shouldn't be deciding the issue one way or another and should be leaving things as they've been done in the past.

  11. Read it again… funding would only be provided in countries where abortions are legal.

  12. Mr. Harper should embrace the standard medical position championed by the World Health Organization, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and indeed previous Liberal and Conservative governments. This position is to support women's access to safe abortions in those countries where it is legal.

    I have a lot of respect for Keith Martin. But I don't like this position. What is characterized as a position is in fact no position at all, the refusal to take a positiion. That may be fine for an organization like the WHO, but not for the government of a single country.

    Either you support access to abortions or you don't.

    This waffling is simply Liberal moral relativism at its worst. Are we intending to support female genital mutilation in countries where it is legal? Will we support capital punishment in countries where it is legal? Will we support jailing government dissidents in countries where it is legal?

    • Abortions are legal in Canada and supported by the Canadian government. When we draw up policies that extend beyond our borders, the policies that apply within our borders are the standard. The government seems to want foreign policy to deviate from domestic policy in this respect. That is a position, and it needs to be justified if the government wants it to become policy.

      That is also the difference between this issue and genital mutilation, capital punishment and jailing political dissidents. We don't do those things within our borders. If the government decided to do those things outside our borders, even where they are legal and accepted, that is a position that would have to be justified.

      • Well, it's true that abortion is legal. However, it is also true that the position of the current government is neutral on the abortion issue.

        So, yes, abortion is legal in Canada, and that is a position.

        However, the position of the current government is neutral. Legality is not the entire issue, because obviously is it perfectly legal for the current government to choose not to fund abortions in foreign countries.

        • The position of the Canadian government is neutral. We agree so far. The position of the Canadian government is to fund and allow access to safe abortion. That is a fact. So the neutral standard we should use when planning foreign policy is to fund and allow access to safe abortion. Not including abortion in a policy dealing with reproductive health is a deviation from established policy, and must be justified.

          In short, it's the golden rule.

          • The position of the Canadian government is to fund and allow access to safe abortion

            No it isn't. Obviously it's not. If it were, this debate would not be happening.

          • "No it isn't. Obviously it's not. If it were, this debate would not be happening. "

            This doesn't even make sense on the level of basic logic, much less the world of verifiable facts.

          • What part of 2+2 do you not understand?

          • This isn't even comprehensible.

    • I take your point, scf, but one can't go into a sovereign country and provide aid to facilitate that which is illegal in said sovereign country. For example, if a country has a ban on eating pork, Canada's pork producers can't go in there with pork sausages to feed the hungry masses. Even though they are hungry and many would probably eat anything that is food.

      Pork sausages are legal here, and we (probably) have no restriction on the exporting of pork products. And of course we are always happy when private companies make donations. Still, we wouldn't allow that. Or at least I'd HOPE we wouldn't allow that.

      • Yes, I agree, although I'm not sure how your argument applies, because no matter what position the government takes, it will be legal, unless they should choose to fund abortions where it is not legal. Choosing not to fund abortions where it is legal is certainly not breaking the law anywhere.

        • I guess I read your post backwards then. "Either you support access to abortions or you don't." And complaining that the WHOs position was no position for our country. Since the WHOs position obviously supported access to abortions where it was legal, I thought that meant you expected us to support access to abortions whether it was legal in the place or not. I said "you expected" not "you want", just to clarify.

    • Let's wade through the straw men in this post and focus on your main point: "What is characterized as a position is in fact no position at all, the refusal to take a positiion." … "Either you support access to abortions or you don't. "

      Ok, so the current and longstanding stance of Canada with respect to foreign aid is that we will support safe abortions where they're legal.

      The other possible positions: 1) Canada will never fund safe abortions. This is problematic since tens of thousands of women worldwide die from botched abortions each year. This ignores Harper's stated goal of improving the health of women worldwide.

      2) Canada will – what – fund abortions in countries where abortion is illegal, I guess. Do you see the hornet's nest of sovereignty this would open up? Canada's aid agencies and the money they distribute have to abide by the laws of the countries they're trying to help. Any other approach would be completely unworkable.

      It seems like the current position is the only practical approach that does as much good as possible for women worldwide. So for all your snark and taunting, what's your alternative?

      Incidentally: "This position may seem appealing to those who are pro-abortion…"

      The term is "pro-choice" and you know it. In fact, many pro-choice people still think abortion is wrong, but don't equate it to murder, and are unwilling to see the choice imposed on women by a government. Please avoid juvenile taunts like this, unless you want to trigger flamewars with people just dying to call you "pro-state-forced-pregnancies" or other such nonsense.

      • Ok, so the current and longstanding stance of Canada with respect to foreign aid is that we will support safe abortions where they're legal

        Apparently not.

        As for your argument to (1), you are simply arguing the pro-abortion position. Here's an alternative botched abortions: fund hospitals so that the women can safely deliver their babies. Here's another argument for public safety: don't kill babies.

        As for (2), I cannot understand what you are saying, because the government's position is to not fund abortions.

        As for your insistence that I use your own vocabulary, no thanks, I am perfectly capable of choosing words.

        • What about a woman who has had five children in the past four years, and who is going to die if she is forced to continue the current pregnancy and will thus leave her children as orphans to die also? Funding hospitals will not help her or them unless she can get a safe abortion and preserve her own health.

          What about a malnourished 12 year old who will die if she is forced to carry to term? Funding hospitals will not help her – she needs a safe abortion. Don't you care about a child who is already born?

          If you really cared about preventing abortions, you would be strongly advocating good family planning. The best way to prevent an abortion is to make contraception available. So tell your MP you want the government to fund contraception as part of the maternal health care plan.

          • If a woman is at threat from her pregnancy, then my advice is for her to get hospital treatment so that she can carry the baby to term, and have a caesarean if necessary, or whatever other treatment is required.

            I'd also say the same to a woman with a severe infection: there is no need to amputate your limb when you can get antibiotics instead.

            I'd also say the same to a person with a migraine or epilepsy: don't remove your anterior lobe when you can get prescription drugs instead.

          • You have no understanding of reality. Here, educate yourself:

            "…Every minute, at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth – that means 529 000 women a year. In addition, for every woman who dies in childbirth, around 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease – approximately 10 million women each year…"

            "…The vast majority of maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to quality family planning services, skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and the first month after delivery, or post-abortion care services and where permissible, safe abortion services…"

            http://www.who.int/features/qa/12/en/index.html

        • Canada has not historically had a policy of refusing to fund organizations that counsel or provide abortions where they're legal. If that stance has changed, Stephen Harper has not said so.

          Please re-read my post in that light.

          "As for your insistence that I use your own vocabulary, no thanks…"

          Right. What on earth was I thinking, asking you to stick to respectful debate when that might constrain your ability to sling inflammatory language? Pro-choice and pro-abortion are not the same thing and you make a difficult debate more difficult by conflating the two.

          • What part of "pro-abortion" do you not understand? "Pro" means for.

          • Read it again: what I said was that pro-choice and pro-abortion are not the same thing.

            Pro-choice: women should be allowed to choose, based on their own system of beliefs and their own circumstances, whether to abort a pregnancy.

            Pro-abortion: abortion is a good thing.

            Canada has large number of pro-choice people and – in my experience – vanishingly small numbers of pro-abortion people.

          • I never said pro-choice and pro-abortion were the same thing. Next.

            Anybody who has had an abortion, wishes to be able to have an abortion on demand, or pays for other peoples' abortions is pro-abortion. They are obviously in favour of access to the procedure. Therefore they are pro-abortion.

            The word pro-choice doesn't actually have any specific meaning. We are all in favour of having choices in life. It's the choices themselves that matter. Pro-choice is a weasel word. So is pro-life. They are both non-descriptive and serve nothing other than to remain vague and amorphous so people don't have to actually think about what they are in fact talking about.

          • "The word pro-choice doesn't actually have any specific meaning."

            There's no point "debating" somebody who thinks he's playing Calvinball.

          • Debating anti-choicers like s-c-f is a waste of time.

          • ditto

          • nobody's forcing you

  13. It's certainly an arguable point that many of the things done in modern science aren't actually "science", but they are at least in principle directed at rigorous explanations for natural phenomena. Quantum mechanics began as an attempt to explain the UV catastrophe mathematically….i.e. rigorously. The mechanism for evolution was correctly outlined in the Origin of Species (random changes + natural selection) even though Darwin did not know the mechanism by which such random changes (mutations) and natural selection (genetics) took place. Science can be rigorous without answering every possible question.

    Social sciences, in my admittedly limited experience, don't even make an attempt at rigour. They show statistical relations between complex phenomena that no one understands. That there are correlations is mathematically undeniable, but explanations for them are left entirely to guesswork.

  14. I agree. The absence of funding is equivalent to not taking a position. As soon as you fund the procedure anywhere, you have taken a position.

    • Right – but choosing to refuse to fund abortion in a country where it's legal IS taking a position. Specifically, it's taking a new position that Canada has never advocated before.

      There's a lot of heat and very little light in this debate, but nobody from the Government has confirmed whether Canada intends to take that new position. They're my tax dollars and I deserve to know what's going to be done with them.

      • Refusing to fund an abortion for a woman who is going to be killed by her pregnancy is morally equivalent to refusing to give water to someone dying of thirst.

  15. I think you have a misguided view of what constitutes mathematical rigor. Describing things using numbers and formula isn't rigor – rigor comes from having known formula and deriving new theories without reverting to observation. Planck's description of blackbody radiation had no previous mathematical framework – he started with some assumptions for which there was no real evidence for at the time, and it happened to match observation, so he went with it.

    All science is ultimately just theories to fit observations to predict new theories – statistics are perfectly valid as observations, so any theories that work off of that, however limited they often are in the social sciences, are thus equally valid. If previous statistics show that access to safe abortions increase maternal health, then if I propose a theory that access to safe abortions increase maternal health and so providing access to safe abortions in the future will increase maternal health. Sure, it's a very simple, weak, almost pointless theory, and attempts should really be made to expand on it to explain more statistics and predict more things, but it's still a valid scientific theory.

    I'll put a question to you – do you understand gravity? Like, really understand it, and are you able to prove how you understand it? Because if you do, book a trip to Oslo, you'll win yourself a Nobel for it. Sure, we have Newton's theory of gravity and its successor, general relativity, but while each describe how masses attract each other, neither explains why mass attracts mass, or the mechanisms by which they do. Particle physics provides a few theories, and with any luck the LHC will shed some light on the matter, but right now, there is no rigor in the derivation for the commonplace theories of gravity. Just the same practice – observe, guess (intelligently) at an explanation, test. Social sciences are absolutely no different – the mechanism by which they work might be obscured due to complexity, and broader theories may be non-existent, but ultimately, while both traits are highly desirable, neither is essential to make it science.

  16. "All science is ultimately just theories to fit observations to predict new theories…"

    No, science in its purest form provides explanations of the less known in terms of the more known. The explanation is often apart from the observations, for example Einstein's GR. The classic example is Newton's Principia, which predicted planetary orbits no better than the Ptolemaic model (at the time) but was clearly a better explanation by virtue of its simplicity.

    In the social sciences, the only thing one knows with any certainty is that certain phenomena are correlated to certain other phenomena. There is no understanding of causality, and generally no hope of establishing it. This is markedly different from, say, physics.

  17. Science in it's purest form certainly provides explanations of the less known in terms of the more known, but the purest form of science doesn't encompass all science. There are plenty of aspects of science that are very, very rough around the edges and don't provide the amazing predictive power of the unifying theories of physics. Right now I'm doing my fourth year project on the interaction between the ionization of iron and its effect on the chemical shift of light hydrogen in acidic aqueous solutions for the purposes of dosimetry development. All I do is observe, guess at an explanation and try to predict what will come from my next experiment. That's science – not very high level mind you, and what I've discovered is rather underwhelming (little predictive power, and over an extremely small range of situation), but it's still science.

    In social sciences, yes, there is a lot of uncertainty. That's a reason to proceed carefully, methodically, but certainly not a reason to diminish what can be derived from the field as unscientific. Understanding of causality and mechanisms will come, in time, but in the meantime, there's nothing wrong with using available observations and statistical reasoning. Again, Darwin had no understanding of the mechanisms of evolution when he proposed his theory, and they weren't discovered until well after his death – but it was still science.

    I'm going to take what I hope is a rare appeal to authority here. I'm one month away from graduating with a degree in the most rigorous scientific discipline available (unless you include pure math, which I don't because it avoids observation entirely) from arguably one of the best universities in that field. For four years, I've had the concept of rigor drilled into my skull, both what it is and what it isn't. There is no inherent lack of rigor in the majority of social sciences compared to natural sciences – the fields may not be as developed and practical rigor (i.e. rigor while performing experiments and analyzing data) is still somewhat lacking, but there is nothing inherently unscientific about them, if approached properly.

  18. Regarding your first point, it's a matter of what the goal is. If the goal is to prove causality in natural phenomena, it's science. Social science, in my experience, does not attempt this. Not only is the understanding not here, the goal is not there either. Take "political science" for example: is there any attempt to understand political phenomena rigorously in terms of their causes? If so, I stand corrected, but I'm not currently aware of such thinking. It seems rather to be a discipline aimed at training people how to shape political realities. When the goal is to make something, I call it an art, not a science. Science attempts to understand things.

    As to the appeal to authority, let's just say you aren't the only one here with a degree in a rigorous scientific discipline so I'm afraid the argument fails.

    • In what way do statistics that establish a correlation between maternal health and access to safe abortions not constitute an attempt to understand things ("Science attempts to understand things")? Backed up by potential mechanisms (for example, lack of access to safe abortions lead to unsafe abortions which, by their very nature, are unsafe and endanger the health of the woman) and evidence of causation (statistics of similar countries with different abortion laws/practices and statistics of countries before and after legalization of abortion), nothing you've qualified as being necessary for science is lacking (note, causation can never, ever, be proved – if it was, it would be an unfalsifiable theory, which would make it inherently unscientific). I also assume you mean causation, not causality, which is a very different thing and certainly has not been proven (though it is taken as granted in most modern interpretations of physics).

      Poly Sci is a generally misnomer, you'll get no argument from me there. But psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics – these may be social sciences, but they can still adhere to all the necessary conditions of science (though again, oftentimes they don't – econ especially).

      As for the appeal to authority, of course it fails, it's an automatic fallacy to do so! Heck, I don't even have that degree yet. But studying mathematical physics for this long – from a math angle, no less – I've been immersed in what constitutes rigor very, very deeply. I won't convince you with that, but expect even longer (and more annoyingly self-assured) posts from me on this subject than on any other.

    • I'm banging my head on the desk – 60,000-70,000 women die every year as a direct result of botched abortion attempts. This isn't "social science", it's not theory, it's not some esoteric statistical estimate, it's a well-researched straightforward statistic.

      Who cares about the definition of science? Improving access to safe abortion will reduce that number of deaths directly attributable to unsafe abortions. Improving access to contraception will reduce it further, not to mention addressing the misery caused by millions of unwanted pregnancies and STD transmissions every year.

      • Tell you what, Cook, if you can convince me that funding abortions will help women without killing children, I'll be all for it.

        In the meantime I think I'd rather discuss the definition of science then watch people discussing other people as "clumps of cells" to be eliminated without compunction.

        • "I'd rather discuss the definition of science than watch people discussing other people as "clumps of cells" to be eliminated without compunction…."

          Right – you would rather have a long discussion that's irrelevant to the matter at hand than listen to the side of the debate you disagree with.

          Seems kinda rich, then, to challenge me to change your closed mind.

          And I do respect the opinion of pro-lifers, but this discussion is pointedly ignoring the fact that botched abortions kill tens of thousands of women – and their blastocysts/babies – every year.

          • "Right – you would rather have a long discussion that's irrelevant to the matter at hand than listen to the side of the debate you disagree with. "

            Yes that's right, I'm not interested in debating the issue. Your position in that debate, as I recall, was that since there is a disagreement your side should get their way. (?)

            "Seems kinda rich, then, to challenge me to change your closed mind. "

            You're always so pleasant in these debates, too! I can't imagine why anyone would not want to discuss them with you.

          • Why do you want women to die? Why do you think of women as nothing but walking wombs? Why do you think an unformed foetus is worth more than a woman who needs her health to keep her children alive? In the places where women die in childbirth, their children who are then orphaned often die also. You would kill a whole family rather than abort an foetus.

          • "Your position in that 100 comment debate barely a week ago, as I recall, was that since there is a disagreement your side should get their way."

            Actually I was quite clear: in the absence of a clearly correct moral stance, the government should leave the decision to the individual woman. I'd say the pro-life alternative is that (still in the absence of a clearly correct moral stance) the government should choose one side and force that decision on Canadian women.

            I think those who want to remove womens' choice in favour of government control have a burden to convince society at large that their moral stance is correct. After a generation of effort, opinions have shifted very little.

            "You're always so pleasant in these debates, too!"

            Pleasant like dismissing those who disagree with you as "decent people who simply haven't thought their ideas through" That kinda pleasant? (http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/03/23/coulter-the-sh

          • Unfortunately no, not that kind of pleasant.

            "Actually I was quite clear: in the absence of a clearly correct moral stance, the government should leave the decision to the individual woman. I'd say the pro-life alternative is that (still in the absence of a clearly correct moral stance) the government should choose one side and force that decision on Canadian women. "

            We're not talking about illegalizing abortion here, we're talking about using public funds to support it in foreign aid. The only effect on Canadian women is taking their tax dollars to fund something. That is "forcing a decision" on a Canadian women, as well as on every other Canadian taxpayer regardless of their views.

            If you really want to support abortion in the third world then donate your own money, not mine. I'll donate mine to the cause of halting abortions everywhere.

          • "Unfortunately no, not that kind of pleasant."

            And you still don't see the condescension and disrespect in a statement like "Most on the left are decent people who simply haven't thought their ideas through."

            The words may be bland but their meaning is incredibly insulting.

            On foreign aid: nobody gets a line-item veto on how their tax dollars get spent. And the bigger picture here is that Harper won't tell us whether he intends to change our current policy with respect to funding agencies that counsel or provide abortion. That's completely unacceptable.

          • So – for the third time in a row, the ever-pleasant Guanilion disappears without addressing my specific complaint.

            Oh but he'll be back again, I assure you, whining about civility without ever recognizing his own role in destroying it. Also, anybody who's pro-choice is a wanton baby-killer.

          • If you really want to end abortions, then you will of course advocate and fund family planning everywhere. Hilary Clinton is quite correct to point out that where women can get good contraception, the number of abortions go down.

            Or is your objection to abortion really because you think women do not have the right to control their own bodies?

  19. "Many members of the Conservative government may have their own personal opposition to abortion…"

    Some of your fellow Liberals too, Keith.

  20. Yes, I am saying "Either you support access to abortions or you don't.", so I'm saying Keith Martin's suggestion (the WHO position) is not a good one, because it chooses neither.

    No, I don't think that rejecting the WHO position means supporting abortions everywhere. You can reject their position and support abortions nowhere. I' m just saying we should support them or not, and have the same position everywhere, and I'm pretty sure the position of the current government will be to support them nowhere.

    • No, I think I get what your driving at, and here's hoping because I'm going to respond to it.

      I understand that you would prefer our position to be support access to abortions nowhere. That is in line with your "either you support access to abortions or you don't" assertion, and it is definitely a choice. But, if you look at the other way to go (just for a minute) and assume the choice is to support access to abortions, you would have to add "where it is legal" because otherwise we're into the pork sausages again. It is still a choice.

      Now, if you are saying Ketih Martin's (and no-longer non-partisan's) suggestion chooses neither, that isn't exactly true either. You choose to be a part of an overall strategy which includes providing access to abortions where it is legal, although you yourself don't provide the access to abortions. It is more acceptable to the Prime Minister's base (we aren't providing access to abortions) while still providing the complete health care package needed (access to abortions).

      • You choose to be a part of an overall strategy which includes providing access to abortions where it is legal

        Yes, and I don't think this is what Martin or the WHO is arguing at all. They are arguing to take no position (that's how I read it), and to allow the local countries to decide for themselves whether they are funded or not. Such a position is turning a blind eye.

        That is a different position from deciding that you will fund it everywhere you can, which may of course be restricted by local laws, but your position remains unchanged, that you will do it where-ever possible. Then there is the government position to fund it nowhere, that the issue is controversial enough that it should not be our place to be paying for it.

        As for the assertion that "you yourself don't provide the access to abortions", I don't think that is true. If we are giving them the funds, then we are providing access. And yes, you could take the position that we'd hand over the money with no strings attached and the recipients would do whatever they like with it, but I don't like that position, because it's our money and we do have the right to insist that it is used for helping people, and many in this country believe we are not helping people by assisting them to kill their fetuses, in the same way many would be upset that we provide access to prostitutes in the name of birth control.

      • Anyway, I guess it's fair to say that we could hand over money and let others decide what to do with it, which is the WHO position, as far as I can tell. But I'm not fond of it.

        I do like your dinner party analogy though. I just think the hosts of the party should decide what's on the menu if they are paying for it.

        • Heh, can you tell I don't cook? Who serves asparagus with turkey?

          "we could hand over money and let others decide what to do with it, which is the WHO position, and yours, as far as I can tell." I think one of us is reading the idea incorrectly.

          I am taking it that, for example, the UK (or someone) will provide the necessary resources for access to abortions, Canada will provide safe and cleaning drinking water and I don't know, sanitary napkins, and drugs. France will provide an operating theatre for cessarians and some more hospital beds. Germany will provide nursing staff and administrative equipment.

          To take this analogy past the breaking point, all the donor countries together contribute to the full banquet, which is a semi-potluck with each country given a category to fill–like meat, dessert, vegetables, salad. It is up to the individual country to decide which specific item to bring (pie, cake, or chocolate mousse?) But it isn't a dinner off the menu–the country being served this meal doesn't get to pick a la carte.

  21. And here, educate yourself:

    "…Essentially all (99%) of the half a million maternal deaths every year occur in developing countries…"

    "…Pregnancy-related complications are a leading cause of death among girls aged 15–19 years in developing countries; unsafe abortion – provided by unskilled persons in unhygienic conditions – contributes substantially to these deaths…."

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs334/e

    • "…Violence against women is widespread around the world. Women who have been physically or sexually abused have higher rates of mental ill-health, unintended pregnancies, abortions and miscarriages than non-abused women. Most violence against women is perpetrated by an intimate male partner. Increasingly in many conflicts sexual violence is also used as a tactic of war…"

      http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs334/e

      Of course, that last sentence applies to the Congo where many women are being gang-raped. Canada used to help them through a program funded by Kairos but the Harper minority government cut funding to Kairos and lied about why they did so.

      • "…Factors that prevent women in developing countries from getting the health care they need include distance from health services, cost (direct fees as well as the cost of transportation, drugs, and supplies), multiple demands on their time, and women's lack of decision-making power within the family. The poor quality of services, including poor treatment by health providers, also makes some women reluctant to use services…"

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternal_health

  22. Love and support women, children and families.

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