Canada stokes abortion split ahead of G8 aid meet

Mon Apr 26, 2010 5:05pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada signaled a split with allies on Monday, ahead of a G8 aid ministers' meeting, by saying it would not help groups that fund abortions as part of a push to boost maternal health in the world's poorest nations.

Critics said the minority Conservative government was taking a retrograde step that would harm women.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in January he would use Canada's presidency of the Group of Eight rich industrialized nations to push for improvements to maternal and child health.

"Canada's contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning. However, Canada's contribution will not include funding abortion," said Jim Abbott, parliamentary secretary to International Development Minister Bev Oda.

The government, which has significant support from social conservatives, had until now declined to say what its position on abortion would be, even after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said abortion was one of many tools to help women in poor countries.

The main opposition Liberal Party said Harper was following in the lead of former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose administration also refused aid for groups that funded abortions.

"Canada is now taking an ideological position and frankly I think they've raised something which could well have been avoided in the effort to create a stronger international consensus," said Liberal foreign affairs spokesman Bob Rae.

Oda was in the Atlantic city of Halifax for a G8 aid ministers' meeting that will run from Monday to Wednesday.   Continued...