Population Matters

Women Deliver. Will the G8 Summit Deliver?

June 9th, 2010

Over the past three days, over three thousand maternal and reproductive health advocates convened in Washington for the second Women Deliver conference.  For all those concerned about the future of family planning and reproductive health programs, the news from Washington is decidedly upbeat. On Monday, Melinda Gates announced that the Gates Foundation was committing $1.5 billion over five years for family planning, maternal and child health and nutrition in developing countries. 

But while the world’s largest philanthropy is ramping up its support for family planning, it’s not yet clear that donor nations will follow suit.  In less than three weeks, the G8 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.) will meet in Huntsville, Ontario, and family planning is high on the agenda…or not.  

Earlier this year, Canada’s foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon, caused an international stir when he announced that Canada, the host of the upcoming G8 Summit, had decided to exclude support for contraceptive programs, supplies, and information from its maternal health programs.  Canada’s retreat from family planning was driven by the Conservative government’s opposition to abortion and the family planning providers who assist or promote abortion services. 

In recent days, however, press reports indicate that a G8 compromise is in the works that would allow Canada to provide support for family planning and maternal health programs.   The draft agreement reportedly stresses that “women in poor countries need access to better sexual and reproductive health-care services, including family planning, but make no specific mention of abortion.” That would leaves G8 countries free to decide whether their maternal health and family planning programs will fund abortions. Canada, in fact, is reportedly prepared to pledge $1 billion over five years to this new initiative if other nations make comparable contributions on maternal health.

If these reports are true, it suggests the G8 Summit might yet generate a significant boost in support for family planning from donor nations. If so, that would be good news for all those women in developing countries who want to avoid becoming pregnant, but who currently lack access to modern methods of contraception.

Stay tuned.

Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President

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