Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

War rape 'abhorrent' but Canada won't fund abortion

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OTTAWA -- Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch blasted the "abhorrent" practices of rape as a weapon of war and the forced marriage of children in the developing world.

But she defended Canada's refusal to fund aid projects that might help the victims of such barbaric practices obtain abortions.

Leitch, who was at the United Nations Friday to celebrate the UN's International Day of the Girl, said Canada needs to target its aid efforts and has chosen to focus on pre- and post-partum maternal and child health.

As a pediatric surgeon, she said she's confident Canada has chosen to target its aid where it will do the most good.

"We have to pick a targeted area, where we're going to be able to have an impact," Leitch said from New York.

"As a physician, I'm very confident in saying that we have chosen the right one, that pre- and post-partum care is the place where we'll have the most meaningful impact to save the lives of children and their mothers."

She noted childbirth is one of the leading causes of death among young women between 15 and 19 and blamed that largely on appalling conditions in which they're often forced to give birth.

Leitch estimated Canada's focus on ensuring women have a clean and safe environment in which to give birth has so far saved the lives of more than 64,000 mothers and as many as 1.3 million children under the age of five.

She did not directly respond when asked repeatedly why the government refuses to consider abortion in the case of child brides or war rape victims.

Even some anti-abortion activists and religious groups are prepared to make exceptions for victims of rape and incest or when the mother's life is in serious jeopardy.

New Democrat Paul Dewar called the government's position illogical, hypocritical and indefensible. "When you deny women access to safe abortions in those instances then you actually aren't really serious about helping these victims," Dewar said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2013 A23

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