Feds commit $8.9M in foreign aid for reproductive health services amid COVID-19

Feds commit $8.9M in foreign aid for reproductive health services amid COVID-19

OTTAWA — Canada is dedicating $8.9 million in new international aid to ensure women and girls around the world have access to safe abortions and reproductive health services — money experts say will help maintain that access despite restrictions due to COVID-19.

International Development Minister Karina Gould said Tuesday that contraceptives, abortion services and reproductive health care have become more challenging to procure for women in many parts of the world and Canada wants to do its part to “step up.”

“We feel particularly right now that it’s important to make this funding announcement to demonstrate that we are still committed to SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) even in a pandemic and actually highlighting the fact that these needs exist and are, in fact, exacerbated by the current pandemic,” she said in an interview.

“This funding will help ensure those services can be delivered.”

Of the $8.9 million announced Tuesday, $4.9 million will go to Marie Stopes International, a global organization that provides contraception and abortions in 37 countries.

Canada’s money will go toward ensuring access safe abortions, post-abortion care and contraception; telemedicine and online outreach and funding for a mobile-phone platform aimed at youth living in isolation and those who are out of school.

A further $2 million will go to Ipas, another international body that works with governments to advocate for safe, legal abortion and to make contraception widely available.

Experts who work in the field say the pandemic has heightened barriers that already existed for many women and girls when it comes to accessing safe abortion services, post-natal care and other reproductive health needs.

Laura Neidhart of Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights said the pandemic has made reproductive health care in Canada and abroad harder to get: supply chains for medication and birth control have been disrupted, clinics closed, and doctors more difficult to see.

“We’ve heard both on the ground here in Canada and also from organizations that are working in countries across the world that this is a pretty substantial problem,” she said.

There are also a number of countries using the pandemic as a pretext to roll back abortion access, Neidhart said.

Members of a United Nations working group issued a statement last month expressing concern over some American states including Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee that ”appear to be manipulating the crisis” to implement bans on different types of abortions during the pandemic.

This creates dangers, Neidhart said.

“Anywhere that we see attempts to roll back or reduce access to abortion care … unsafe abortions become much more of a challenge and likelihood.”

She applauded the Trudeau government for investing in reproductive health care and for highlighting the need to see this as a priority in the midst of a pandemic.

“It’s really essential for feminist leadership from the Canadian government to make sure that people are able to access the care that they need,” she said.

Diana Sarosi, director of policy and campaigns for Oxfam Canada, said she too was heartened to see new money being committed to this effort.

However she noted that $8.9 million “seems like peanuts” compared to the $1.4 billion pledged last year by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for international aid for women’s health, half of which was dedicated to ensuring access to safe abortions and reproductive-health services worldwide.

While this investment was lauded as “historic” for its size and focus, Sarosi said the money has yet to start rolling out.

“There has been little movement thus far in implementing those commitments, so right now it’s not just about trying to sustain the services that were there before the pandemic, but also really building capacity of health systems to address a whole range of neglected areas, like contraceptive care, abortion services,” she said.

“We’re really hoping the government steps up in implementing that massive commitment for which they received a lot of accolades around the world. It’s really time to implement that now.”

Part of the amount announced Tuesday — $2 million — will also go to the United Nations trust fund on violence against women to help combat gender-based violence internationally.

Gould said there has been a “staggering” increase in violence against women caused by COVID-19 restrictions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read