Canada defends decision not to fund abortions

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Canada's Conservative prime minister on Tuesday defended his government's decision not to fund abortions abroad despite putting forward maternal and children's health care as the top foreign-aid initiative at this year's G-8 summit.

Prime Minster Steven Harper says his government will focus on less contentious issues dealing with health care at the G-8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, in late June.

Canada said Monday it would not fund abortions, a stance that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other allies disagree with.

"We understand that other governments, that other taxpayers may do something different," Harper said Tuesday in Parliament in Ottawa. "We want to make sure that our funds are used to save the lives of women and children, and are used on the many, many things that are available to us that frankly do not divide the Canadian population."

Clinton was adamant at a G-8 meeting in Canada last month that any international effort to boost maternal health must include family planning, including access to safe abortions.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has also said Britain would oppose a plan that doesn't include a comprehensive menu of family planning options.

G-8 development ministers are meeting in Halifax this week to lay the foundation for proposals that will be discussed at the summit. The sessions conclude Wednesday

The G-8 or Group of Eight groups France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada.

Social conservatives are core supporters of Harper's Conservative party. Abortions are legal in Canada.