Anti-abortion activists are once again upset after the federal government announced last week that the Department of Foreign Affairs has funded the “morning after pill,” also known as Plan B, to give out in their maternal health program in Afghanistan.
The contraceptive was given out as part of a program which began in 2010 under PM Harper. The pill recently made the news for the announcement that the current federal government would also seek to add an additional 3.5 billion dollars of funding over the next five years to improve maternal health across the developing world.
One part of this program – a very, very small part of it – is focused on family planning, in which funding for Plan B is included. The drug, which is available over the counter (though access to it varies province to province) has been distributed by the Afghan Family Guidance Association, which is partnered with the international branch of Planned Parenthood and the Canadian government.
The anger over Plan B appears to be in the way the drug operates. It actually does nothing to end pregnancy, only preventing the fertilized egg from being able to stick to the uterine wall, as well as delaying the fertilization of the egg and temporarily stopping the release of an egg from the ovary.
Why is important that the federal government actually stands by their decision to fund Plan B, not only in Afghanistan but all other countries that receive funding for maternal health? Essentially one of the most fundamental elements of maternal health is the decision of whether or not to have a child. Funding this contraceptive – as it is a contraceptive, not a drug that causes abortion – is just one part of maternal health and this should continued to be respected by this government.
By listening to anti-abortion “activists” the Conservative government will be denying women around the globe options to access resources for family planning and maternal health. If this money is going toward family planning and maternal health, than it should be funded, since decided not to have a child is a huge part of family planning, as well as an important component in the health of the mother.
Another thing to point out is the fact that a very small amount of the money that the Conservative government has gifted for maternal health is for family planning – only 0.55 per cent, according to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). The Federation is even calling on the government to continue to show more commitment to the issue of family planning, stating that over 222 million women around the globe lack access to a range of modern contraceptive options.
Recently the IPPF, along with a number of civil society groups from around the world, came together to address the Harper government, calling on them to recognize the role that family planning has in the health of women and children. The federal government should listen to these civil society groups and continue to fund Plan B, along with other forms of contraceptives and family planning options and not be afraid of the backlash from anti-abortion activists, if they are as committed to maternal health as they claim they are.