Wednesday, April 07, 2010

On Martin's Fix

Well, let's get one thing straight. This is not, contra National Post writer John Ivison, the Liberals' problem. It is the government's; as of this moment, the Harper Tories have a maternal health plan that does not include family planning measures, and this summer they will attempt to foist it upon the other seven members the G8. Given the U.K. and American response thus far, the odds are very much tilted against their finding success.

Here's where MP Keith Martin's "fix", first reported last week in The Mark, comes in:

Mr. Martin appears to have found the solution. He said Stephen Harper should embrace the World Health Organization’s position of supporting women’s access to safe abortions in those countries where it is legal. Yet he recognized many members of the Conservative government have their own opinions that have to be respected. He suggested Mr. Harper could square his opposition to abortion while still implementing a maternal health plan by proposing each G8 country take the lead on one of the treatments.

“For example, Canada could be the lead nation on training healthcare workers and micronutrients, another country could focus on providing medications, another on access to family planning and safe abortions etc. This would enable Mr. Harper to move forward with an effective plan of action while being sensitive to the views on abortion of some of his members,” he said.

This, as I wrote at the time, is the solution employed by the George Bush II administration under similar circumstances--ie under similar pressures from its own political right flank.

Aside from problems of implementation--another state would have to come forward and offer to pay for third world abortions, which may not be so easy given the domestic political pressures within various G8 countries--there is a larger issue at stake: contra Ivison, and with all due respect to Mr. Martin, Martin's Fix is not a commonsense solution or a reasonable compromise. It constitutes an accounting gimmick, a butt covering exercise.

The G8's situation today might be visualized as follows: everyone throws their maternal care money into one big pot, and it is spent willy-nilly on the various "treatments" Martin specifies. Under the Martin proposal, each country would throw its money into one of several little pots, labelled "medications" or "family planning" or etc., and their money would be spent just on that one medical option.

Well, for one thing, how is it possible to ensure that, once the money have been turned over to the G8, it remains in its particular pot? How is it possible to determine if, for example, a dollar from Canada has wound up paying for a box of condoms in Kinshasa? It seems to me that it isn't. And, more importantly, in the end Canada's initiative still winds up paying for abortions in foreign lands, despite Harper's insistence that it not do so. Martin's plan, that is, simply provides a fig-leaf for a government climb-down.

Now, for progressives like myself, that's fine. Canadian policy as practised by several government's, both Tory and Liberal, does not change. The problem for Harper will come from his own political base, from the true believers for whom abortion is a make or break issue.

Will they allow themselves to be fooled by Martin's gimmick, which essentially gives them nothing?


Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

It will certainly be an interesting development.. though one also wonders, out loud, whether Ignatieff really wants to die on the sword over this issue.

Obviously, many in his caucus have some heartburn over the issue, as do many Canadians.

Personally, I think it's bullshit to create an obvious fiction that "you can't help women without offering up abortion as a treatment option".

UN statistics clearly show this is total garbage - and for the liberals to perpetuate this fiction is really pretty disgusting.

"Hi, uh, pregnant women in Darfur.. I know you would love me to provide you with clean water and good food during your pregnancy, but, uh, Michael Ignatieff says there is no point in doing so if I don't also offer you an abortion."

bigcitylib said...

Your misreading the dynamic. The drama will all take place between Harper and the other G8 leaders. Its not really a domestic issue at all. What does Iggy dying on his sword over this mean?

Gallahad said...

The real point is that you can not put forward a maternal health plan, that does not include family planning, and access to safe abortions.

Thousands of women die in developing countries every year due to botched abortions.

Hillary Clinton, has already pointed this out to Harper.

Other G8 nations are doing the same.

Harper is letting his crack pot religion, and idealogy get in the way of sound policy.

This initiative of Harper's will go nowhere without US, and other G8 nation's support.

We look like fools once again under Harper.

Martin's is smart enough to know his plan is a non starter.

Harper's initiative was made up on the fly.

He doesn't care about women and children in developing countries.

His plan is bullshit, and once again he is embarassing Canada.

Ti-Guy said...

Shorter Rob: "I'm a mostly typical male. I'm the God-ordained head of the family and chief defender of 'family values.' I have a firm position on abortion, something I will never have to really agonise about, because it provides me with the chance to look and sound caring and human and concerned with the lives of others in the absence of any other real and deeply-held set of values or moral convictions."

For some people, it's baby seals. For others, such as incarcerated prisoners (who've left a trail of broken lives in their wakes), it's the brutalisation of convicted pedophiles. For others still, it's the burka and the policing of vice and virtue.

I've finally come around to sympathise with the a more radical feminist perspective on abortion, something I previously resented: Men should just shut the hell up about this altogether. Their pitiable need to present an exterior veneer of morality combined with their natural tendency to dominate and co-opt every issue is, and always has been, insufferable.

If you're not doing anything to promote greater representation of women among our elected representatives, you're not part of any solution; you're just part of the problem.

Niles said...

It's not Ignatieff dying on *anything*. It's women dying.

It's bullshit to say you're all down with teh women's health except for something that only affects women's health. All women's health. At home. Abroad. Universal language between women.

If abortion is a legal option in the places Canada sends aid, then Canada better damn well aid a necessary medical option for half of the world's population. Stop pushing this into the closet and making it icky topic poo for guys. Seems the same crowd against abortion as ONE OF MANY supports for women can't be seen buying menstrual supplies for their women either.

Hi, uh pregnant women in Darfur. If you want help keeping your pregnancy healthy so it makes it to term, we're gonna do what we can. If you want help terminating your pregnancy because you know it's the better future for you and yours, we're gonna do what we can for you. If you want help promoting your own personal physical health and contraception provided to continue that physical health, so you don't need to contemplate an end point option of pregnancy to start, we're gonna do what we can.

It's not an either/or as Goofaloopuses would have people think.

Gallahad said...


Michael Ignatieff, is not the Prime Minister of Canada.

Unfortunately it is fat twit, Stephen Harper.

Even if the Liberals, motion had passed in the HOC, it was non binding, and Harper would have ignored it.

Your Darfur, reference is ridiculous.

Would you rather a woman who wants an abortion, have access to a safe one, or would you rather her use a coat hanger, or a back street butcher?

We are talking about a part of the world, where population control is a must.

Do you believe it is healthy for a woman to have 14 or 15 children?

Do you believe bringing children into the world, when you can not feed, clothe, or educate them, moral and ethical?

This plan is bullshit, stop blaming Ignatieff for it.

Harper has been PM, for over 4 years now.

Grow up, and start to use some common sense.

Holly Stick said...

Hey RG Harvie; how about a reference and link to your putative UN statistics? On the other hand, just read what the WHO has to say:

"...Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death.

The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour..."