Canada says it won't fund abortions in G-8 plan

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Canada's Conservative government said Monday it won't fund abortions as part of its top foreign-aid initiative at this year's G-8 summit, a stance that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other allies disagree with.

Canada has made maternal and children's health its centerpiece issue at the G-8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario in late June.

The stance on abortion is in disagreement with Clinton, who was adamant at a G-8 meeting 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.

Canadian International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada's contribution will not include funding of abortions, but said that countries will be able to identify their own priorities. G-8 development ministers are meeting in Halifax this week to lay the foundation for proposals that will be discussed at the summit.

"Canada's contribution to maternal and child health may involve various interventions, including family planning, which includes the use of contraceptive methods," Oda said. "The details remain to be determined. However, Canada's contribution will not include funding abortion."

Oda said they will work to reach a consensus on a G-8 initiative to save the lives of millions of mothers and children in poor countries.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has faced criticism at home and abroad since making the maternal health plan its signature initiative of the summit.

Opposition Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has noted the Harper government is following the lead of former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose administration refused aid to groups that supported abortion.

Social conservatives are core supporters of Harper's Conservative party.

Clinton said last month at a G-8 foreign ministers meeting in Canada that "you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions."

Canadian foreign minister Lawrence Cannon later said that Clinton was expressing a personal view. Oda said on Monday she spoke with the head of the United States Agency for International Aid and said USAID does not fund abortion procedures.

The G-8 development ministers are meeting Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.