Statement made on 25 March 2010 by Senator Lucie Pépin (retired)
Hon. Lucie Pépin:
Honourable senators, I applaud the Prime Minister's decision to make maternal and child health the focus of the G8 agenda. This decision will help lower maternal mortality rates.
Every year, half a million women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Many others suffer from serious, lifelong consequences.
A large number of maternal deaths result from haemorrhaging, non-medical abortions, high blood pressure, complications during birth and infection.
If we, as Canadians, wish to save the lives of mothers around the world, we need to focus our actions on the underlying causes of these deaths. In the developing world, women die because they are too young to be pregnant, because their pregnancies are too close together, or because they give birth in unsafe conditions.
According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, every year, 75 million women in developing countries experience an unintended pregnancy. According to that institute's predictions, averting 50 million of these pregnancies would prevent 22 million abortions, 7 million miscarriages, 1.4 million infant deaths and 142,000 maternal deaths resulting from unsafe deliveries and abortions. Thus, half a million children would not lose their mothers.
Any effective strategy to improve maternal heath must involve birth control and a commitment to meeting the contraceptive needs of women.
Family planning must be more than just an option on the table. Birth control must be a key component of any plan to save the lives of mothers. Canada's message to our G8 partners must focus on prevention.
Canada could also lead by example by restoring funding to development organizations like International Planned Parenthood, which helps underprivileged women in rural areas access pre-natal counselling and obstetric care.
We have reliable, proven solutions for saving the lives of mothers. This is not about being pro-choice, pro-life or anti-choice. Canada cannot do everything on its own, but we can make a difference by pushing the G8 to act on priority issues. I hope that the government will keep that in mind in April when Minister Oda announces details of the plan to implement this laudable initiative.