During an interview, she talked freely about the importance of family planning in maternal health — a theme she touched on in the blogs she wrote while away. She emphasized that the government supports International Planned Parenthood, with which it is in active talks about extending funding. We even discussed abortion. The tone of the conversation struck me as notably different from what I had heard from other government officials throughout last spring’s debate on maternal health.
By Thursday afternoon, there were opposition calls for clarification of the government’s policy on family planning and abortion. A Catholic group even called for the minister’s resignation. And the minister called me back, hoping to clarify some of what she had said. Oda made it clear that none of the $1.1 billion earmarked for maternal health would go to fund abortion, although it would be used to support family planning initiatives. However, she conceded, Canada would, if asked, provide general health funding, outside of the G8 initiative, to governments who provide abortion services. Canada, in other words, may indirectly fund abortion services — by training doctors who sometimes perform abortions or improving maternity wards where abortions are legally provided, for example.