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Family Planning, Access To Safe, Legal Abortion Key To Maternal, Child Health, U.S. Sec. Of State Says

Following a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from G8 countries in Quebec on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “appeared at odds … with [Canadian] Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s G8 initiative on maternal and child health, saying family planning, contraception and access to legal, safe abortions were vital elements of maternal health care,” Canwest News Service/Ottawa Citizen report (O’Neill, 3/31).

Following deep criticisms by maternal health advocates after Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said earlier this month that the G8 maternal health initiative would not include family planning program, Harper recently stated he was open to considering the inclusion of contraception as part of the initiative, but has “maintained a strong stance against the initiative having anything to do with abortion,” Canwest News Service/Ottawa Citizen continues (3/31).

“You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions,” Clinton said Tuesday during a news conference, the Toronto Star reports. “I do not think governments should be involved in making these decisions,” she said (Campion-Smith, 3/30).

According to Canwest News Service/Ottawa Citizen, Clinton’s statements during the press conference were later endorsed by British foreign secretary David Miliband during a television interview, where he explained his government would fund programs “that included access to safe abortion.”

“We think it’s very important to have a comprehensive family planning aspect as part of the development strategy,” Miliband said.

Clinton added that “one of the reasons her government was promoting a global health initiative for mothers that promoted greater access to contraception was that family planning reduced the need for abortion,” the news service writes. “If you are concerned about abortion, then women should have access to family planning,” she said (3/31). adds: “The maternal health initiative will be discussed in greater depth when G8 ministers responsible for international development meet in Halifax, Nova Scotia in April” (3/31).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.