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Bishops regret proposal to tie abortion into overseas aid

By on Friday, 22 October 2010

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary for International Development, wants overseas aid to have an 'unprecedented focus on family planning' (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary for International Development, wants overseas aid to have an 'unprecedented focus on family planning' (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

Government proposals to “hard-wire” abortion and contraceptive services into overseas development programmes have been criticised by the English and Welsh bishops.

Church leaders issued a statement the day before the closure of the public consultation phase closed for Choice for Women: Wanted Pregnancies, Safe Births.

The proposals by the Department for International Development (DFID) seek to further development by giving women across the developing world “unprecedented” access to “safe” abortion and modern methods of contraception.

The Government argues that the new approach is necessary to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratios of poor countries by 2015 from their positions in 1990. But a spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said the proposals were “deeply regrettable”.

“Maternal mortality is of great importance to the Catholic Church and it wholeheartedly supports international efforts to make childbirth safer,” he said. “It is a scandal that hundreds of thousands of women die in childbirth every year. The Church therefore welcomes the commitment of the British Government to make progress on this millennium development goal.

“It is deeply regrettable, however, that the DFID has tied this urgent issue to the quite different goal of ‘wanted pregnancies’ that is, to the reduction of pregnancy rates in the developing world through provision of contraception and, explicitly, of abortion. The Church urges the DFID to distinguish between these two very different agendas of ‘wanted pregnancies’ and ‘safe births’. If DFID develops programmes that are transparent in being dedicated to making pregnancy safer then these could attract wider support from the churches, from governments and from non-governmental organisations.”

The Catholic Church is the world’s second-largest international development body after the United Nations.

A large percentage of hospitals in Africa are operated by faith-based organisations, with the Catholic Church responsible for one quarter of all healthcare provision. Globally, it runs 5,246 hospitals, 17,530 dispensaries, 577 leprosy clinics, 15,208 houses for the elderly and chronically ill and people with physical and learning difficulties worldwide and Catholic agencies provide a quarter of all HIV care in Africa.

The Pope has expressed his willingness for the Holy See to work more closely with the Britain in the provision of aid. But in July Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development, told a conference in London that the Government was preparing to push family planning services in the poorest countries of the world.

Reproductive and maternal health was “the most off-track” of all the MDGs, he said. “The international community has failed to assist millions of women by ignoring the complexities of why at least a third of a million women in the world’s poorest countries die during pregnancy and childbirth each year. For too long we’ve been trying to tackle the issue with one hand tied behind our backs.

“The Department for International Development will now have an unprecedented focus on family planning, which will be hard-wired into all our country programmes.”

A spokeswoman for DFID said concrete proposals would be formulated only after the 12-week consultation exercise, which ended on Wednesday. She said there were “no suggestions” that the Government would impose abortion and contraception services as a condition of receiving development aid.

But a Government press statement from July said a key focus of any new policy will be to combat unsafe abortion. It claimed that there were 70,000 deaths a year from an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions, with about eight million women also needing medical treatment for complications arising from them.

“Ensuring abortion services are safe, and that post-abortion care is provided, saves lives,” the statement said. “And increasing access to family planning will avert many thousands of unintended pregnancies and abortions every year.”

The statement also claimed that 215 million women in poor countries would like to either delay or avoid their next pregnancy but had no access to “modern family planning methods” such as “implants, injectables and intrauterine devices”.

“Increasing access could prevent up to 30 per cent of all maternal deaths and 20 per cent of newborn deaths,” it said.

  • nytor

    Disgraceful. Millions of Catholics pay taxes to this monstrous state, which in return for their subsidising child murder closes down Catholic adoption agencies.

    Why do Catholics not make their voices heard more strongly? The state's attitude to life issues is gravely immoral and we all have a duty to oppose it.

  • Brian Crowe

    On 2nd August this year I wrote to Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Sec of State for International Development, with copies to Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for International Development, and Stephen O'Brien MP, Parliamentary Under Sec of State for International Development, on this question of the British taxpayer funding massive contraceptive and abortion schemes in Third World countries. The letters were sent individually by 1st class Royal Mail to the respective Ministers at the House of Commons, and yes you have probably guessed, I received no reply whatsoever. Now there was nothing private or secret in these letters, and this post in the Catholic Herald gives me the opportunity to reproduce my probably very inadequate letter, for the information of readers on this site who may very well be able to improve on it and perhaps take up the issue with the Government. It is for this reason only that I reproduce a copy of my letter. For obvious reasons – public website etc. I have deleted my address but am quite happy to provide it if requested for bona fide reasons. Brian Crowe

    Rt. Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
    Secretary of State for International Development
    House of Commons

    Dear Sir,

    Re. Monetary grants to IPPF

    I write to express my abhorrence that the DFID has set up an official partnership arrangement with the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF), a partnership which ‘recognises the specific role of IPPF in implementing DFID policy in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights, AIDS and maternal health, requiring sustained high-level advocacy work and international leadership in a difficult policy environment’.

    As is well known the primary aim of IPPF is to promote the use of contraception and the availability of abortion worldwide, particularly for young women in third world countries

    For the period 1st April 2008 – 1st March 2013, the UK government approved a Grant of £43,000,000 to support the ‘core work objectives of the International Planned Parenthood Federation’. In addition, at the G8 Summit meeting this year, David Cameron pledged an additional £360,000,000 aid over 2 years. Additionally the UK government made a further Grant of £4,000,000 for the ‘IPPF Safe Abortion Action Fund’(SAAF) for the period 01/03/2007 to 01/03/2009, a fund for the ‘increased utilisation of quality safe abortion and post abortion services, especially by young, poor, and vulnerable women’
    Additionally, £46,525 was paid into the same Fund for the period 01/04/2009 to 31/05/2009.

    The IPPF is a registered UK charity, with 11 of its employees earning £60,000 + p.a., 7 earning £100,000 +p.a.., and the top earner on £228,000 p.a.

    The IPPF is not part of any government sector, and the funding is for ‘procurement of services relating to population policies/programmes and reproductive health care’ world-wide. Its purpose and objective is geared to population control, with a projected policy of contraception and abortion for young, poor and vulnerable women, particularly in Third World and poorer countries. It has a commercial arm dealing in the marketing and supply of contraceptives.

    I’m sure that most reasonable people would agree, that as a nation and where possible, we must help those less fortunate than ourselves. To provide funds to feed the starving, home the homeless, help those suffering from the effects of war or natural disasters, bring hope to the despairing, and other similar situations, are all clearly good causes. However the provision of ‘contraception and abortion facilities’, is not in this category. Tax-payers have a legitimate interest in the beneficiaries of these huge grants, after all it is our money that the government is giving away, and very many on religious and/or ethical grounds consider this an evil cause, as I do. Many others, on purely rational grounds, are opposed to such distribution of their money, money which could be better used supporting our own fragile public services, particularly health, education, housing, and employment.

    I would urge the government to think again on the matter of such huge grants to IPPF and the controversial purpose for which this money will be used, with a view to ending such grants altogether, or at least substantially reducing the amount. After all, £400 million is a very great deal of money, taxpayer’s money, and deserves and demands ethical and prudent stewardship.

    Yours faithfully,

    Brian Crowe

    Copy to:-
    Minister of State for International Development – Alan Duncan MP
    Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development – Stephen O'Brien MP

  • Ratbag


    This disgraceful government makes cuts here, there and everywhere – bringing the poor and the disadvantaged to their knees – but somehow there is money in the pot for abortion and contraception here and in third world countries!

    Abortion services 'safe'? Don't make me laugh! It's a humanitarian tragedy!

  • Karmenu of Malta

    We have the welfare and progress of underdeveloped countries very much at heart, and yet we want these nations to develop along a course which pleases us. Do we ever enquire what these people really want? More importantly, what does the God of Catholics, who is the God of Anglicans, who is the God of Muslims, who is the one and only God want? If some people in authority would not be bothered with these considerations before they reach their death bed, most of the people do care now.

  • David

    I believe we do enquire what there people really want. According to this very article: “215 million women in poor countries would like to either delay or avoid their next pregnancy but had no access to “modern family planning methods” such as “implants, injectables and intrauterine devices”

    So there is your answer.

  • David

    Teachnically any medical procedure carries a degree of risk with it. So we might was well say there's nothing “safe” about anything.

    HOwever I would decribe millions of people living in poverty forced into a position where they have to bring up children they cannot afford because they have no method of controlling their own feritillity a humanatarian tradgedy.

  • Saunders9

    What troubles me and I've never got a satisfactory answer is in the third world with Aids the Churches opposition to condoms. I can understand faithful catholics like myself not using condoms but can we oppose it on others? One only has to look at the size of families amongst the faithful to see some form of contraception being used. I've never heard a priest ever promote NFP or talk against contraception. I just hear abortion is wrong which no catholic could disagree with. Our government is not Catholic so why wouldn't it link aid to family planning? I see a lot of family planning by Catholics, but most people just keep silent.

  • Fidelisjoff

    I thought Cafod, the aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales has been promoting contraception information for years with the approval of our bishops. Unfortunately this is a case of pot calling kettle black. Disappointingly, Cafod has pro abortion, pro contraception, pro women priests I. E. anti catholic John Snow speaking at their PaulVI lecture. Do I hear some turning in the grave? Any way Cafod has never supported Humanae Vitae and is unlikely to until Catholi Bishops themselves openly support it.

  • Ian Logan

    Thanks for the letter, Brian, I have sent a reworded version to David Cameron, who is my MP.

  • Ratbag

    Tut, tut, David? Are you advocating that obscenity called “Eugenics”?. Self control, David, has no artificial chemicals, hormones or excuses. I was born into poverty but my family cut the cloth and made sacrifices for me and my siblings. Very few know the meaning of the word 'sacrifice', 'responsibility', or 'commitment' any more thanks to the much trumpeted hormones. It's all about looking after number one. There is more to life and loving than intercourse.

    There is still poverty. It will never go away. The poor have as much right to life as a rich person.

  • CJP

    Sadly this is a good time to promote Natural Family Planning, as needed.

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