Stephen, We Need to Talk
To: Stephen Harper (a.k.a. the Prime Minister of Canada, a.k.a. That Guy With the Questionable Judgment)
From: Me (a.k.a. A Concerned Citizen, a.k.a. Someone Who Thinks You're a Bit of a Twit)
I have to confess, I am not, nor have I ever been, one of your biggest fans. I have never voted for your party, and I've found many of your decisions since becoming Prime Minister (such as sending Canadian troops to Afghanistan and protecting the Alberta oil sands even though they are royally screwing up the environment) disappointing, to say the least. However, when you announced at the end of January that you hoped one focus of the upcoming G8 summit would be improving maternal and child health worldwide - particularly in developing countries - I thought that maybe this was a decision of yours I could get behind.
But then, again, you let me down. Because earlier this week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon confirmed that your newfound commitment to maternal health would not include any funding for improving access to contraception. According to Mr. Cannon, the money will go towards programs which "save lives", and won't "deal in any way, shape or form with family planning". Thus, this discussion we're having: because no initiative designed to improve maternal health is complete without improving women's access to reliable methods of birth control (and safe abortion, but you don't even want to think about that, do you?).
In a very real way, birth control saves lives. Hundreds of thousands of women die every year due to complications during pregnancy or giving birth. Often, these complications stem from becoming pregnant at a young age, or pregnancies which occur too close together. Clean water and vaccinations don't do much to prevent these problems. Having access to reliable birth control, to space out pregnancies and give women the option of delaying pregnancy until their bodies are physically capable of handling it? That helps. So does funding abortion services provided by actual medical practitioners, because thousands of women die as a result of unsafe abortions.
Now, I realize that the day after this announcement was made, you backtracked, saying that funding for contraception may still be included in your initiative. But I'm honestly not optimistic that this push to improve maternal health - and therefore women's health - will actually include funding for birth control and safe abortion. I hope you prove me wrong...but I doubt you will.
Congratulations, Stephen. You've disappointed me again.