U.S. says no G8 split with Canada over abortion

Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:21pm EDT
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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - The United States is not at odds with Canada despite Ottawa's announcement that it will refuse to fund groups that provide abortions in poor countries, the top U.S. aid official said on Tuesday.

Canada's right-wing Conservative government, which says it will use its position as chair of the Group of Eight leading nations to boost maternal health in the developing world, said on Monday it would have nothing to do with abortion funding.

This means Canada is at odds with other G8 members such as the United States and Britain, which back access to safe abortions. Canada is hosting a three-day meeting of G8 aid ministers in the Atlantic city of Halifax.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, head of the United States Agency for International Development, noted the Obama administration had lifted a ban on aid for groups that funded abortions.

Asked whether this meant the United States and Canada were at odds over the issue, he replied: "No, not at all."

Canadian International Development Minister Bev Oda said both countries backed the use of family planning to help improve the health of mothers.

"We do not disagree on the definition of family planning that the international community uses," she said.

Oda said other G8 members around the table had "asked for flexibility so that they can pick and choose" what approaches they would back.

"I know they (the Americans) will support Canada's G8 initiative to save the lives of mothers and children, to ensure that they have safe births, healthy children and we reduce their mortality," she said.

Critics in Canada say the government's stance on abortion will harm women in the Third World.

(Reporting by Richard Woodbury; writing by David Ljunggren; editing by Mohammad Zargham)