Earlier this month, International Women’s Day sparked demonstrations around the world in an encouraging show of support for women and gender-oppressed individuals. It also represented an important day for global health efforts, in large part due to a $650 million pledge made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “close existing gaps” in reproductive health services.
The plan, which is set to unfold over the next three years, will direct its efforts at improving reproductive health programs and sexual education, as well as investing in family planning and contraceptives. Although regarded as a controversial move by Trudeau’s predecessor Stephen Harper, the extra funding comes in light of Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the “global gag rule” back in January.
Also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” the global gag rule stipulates that US aid cannot go to international NGOs if they perform abortion services or provide women with information about abortions in any capacity. The mechanics of the policy are better outlined in one of our earlier blog posts, which explains the deeper history behind the move, and its broader repercussions around the world.
As for Trudeau, the recent pledge marks a doubling of Canada’s current budget for reproductive health services, as well as a break with the policy of previous governments, which have historically chosen to steer clear of funding what have been called “divisive” abortion services in countries where the act is illegal.
Canada’s interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose weighed in on the matter in an interview with The Independent: “Our position was always, let’s stick to things that we know will bring people together and everyone can support, which was the maternal and child health initiative,” she said.
But Trudeau’s standing appears far more concerned with global women’s rights than party politics.
During a local event commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8, Trudeau issued the following statement: “For far too many women and girls, unsafe abortions and a lack of choices in reproductive health mean that they either are at risk of death, or simply cannot contribute and cannot achieve their potential.”
For ongoing developments on this matter, as well as others in the realm of reproductive health, we encourage you to follow South Avenue Women’s Services blog.