Abortion: Don’t ask, don’t tell

Canadian aid agencies that offer health care to women in the developing world have no problem describing the condoms they distribute and education they provide as part of a family-planning program.

But ask if abortion services are included in their health-care repertoire, they clam up. It’s a matter of don’t ask, don’t tell.

“There’s a lot that’s unspoken,” says a program manager with years of experience in several development organizations. “We have an extremely sympathetic officer who knows the realities in the field. It’s not a subject I’ve raised. You dare not talk about it.”

The manager, who asked to speak without attribution, said a chill surrounds maternal health programs since the Conservative government declared in April that no foreign aid money will fund abortions.  “It’s scary to articulate. Someone could overhear you and write down that you support a woman’s right to choose and then funding could be cut to our partner agency,” the program manager said.

“This issue goes way beyond CIDA funding so we’re trying to be very careful.”

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