In recent years, the pro-life contingent within the Conservative caucus has been mostly quiet. Some believed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would show his “true colours” and prove true charges that he had a hidden agenda, while others bided their time as good team players. A notable exception was a threatened revolt when the Liberals introduced a motion calling upon the government to include abortion as part of its maternal health initiative at the G8 meetings Harper was hosting in June 2010. Harper caved in on permitting sex education and birth control being part of his initiative, but reiterated he would not include abortion because he was uninterested in reopening the abortion issue.
In September, the government admitted that it would fund the International Planned Parenthood Federation in five developing countries for projects to provide sex education and birth control. Ottawa is giving $6 million over three years to the world’s largest abortion outfit.
Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes condemned funding IPPF because money used for other purposes frees Planned Parenthood money to do abortions. “It does not matter what rationale the government gives,” Hughes told The Interim, “they are funding a pro-abortion organization that is committed to killing babies and lobbying to liberalize abortion laws all around the world.”
CLC had praised the government’s 2009 decision not to renew funding for IPPF.
Immediately following the breaking news on Sept. 22 that the government would fund IPPF, Conservative MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt) said he would issue a statement and later that day he posted a scathing response on his website. Trost, who has been a leading voice opposing funding of Planned Parenthood, said numerous MPs have fought against funding the group and that Harper’s justifications are the “sort of hairsplitting (that) only makes sense in the Ottawa bubble.”
The government has also tried to justify funding IPPF by noting that the projects they are supporting are in countries where abortion is banned. Hughes said because IPPF’s local affiliates are active in lobbying government and challenging restrictive laws, funding Planned Parenthood is tantamount to undermining local morals, customs, and laws against abortion. Trost noted that “promoting abortion internationally is central to the identity of IPPF” which the MP reiterated “I totally reject.”
Trost said he understands that six staffers in the office of International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda were working on getting IPPF grant money “and one of them decided to leak the story to the CBC.” Trost added, “rather than deny the story, a decision was made to rush funding,” to the abortion organization. A source in the Prime Minister’s Office also told The Interim that the move to fund Planned Parenthood came from Oda’s office and not the PMO.
Trost vowed that “the battle over the IPPF” funding “continues.”
He said the battle has been waged by pro-life MPs since 2006, but that initially the Harper government ignored them “because we asked politely – and behind closed doors.” But in “2009, we became more aggressive and began to take our campaign public.” At that time, Trost publicly circulated a petition calling for an end to IPPF funding.
Funding for IPPF was severely reduced, with Ottawa ceasing the $20 million annual operational grants, focusing instead on minor project-based grants with strings attached.
Now, however, Trost notes, Harper has headed in the wrong direction on Planned Parenthood funding but only because pro-lifers have scaled back their pressure. “Pro-life politicians have been taught a lesson,” Trost said about the September announcement. “The government only responds to Pro-life issues and concerns when we take an aggressive stance. We will apply this lesson.”
A pair of other Tory MPs also spoke out against the funding of IPPF. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) issued a press release condemning Planned Parenthood and its eugenic and racist roots. Vellacott also chastised Harper for giving into its funding requests. IPPF, he said, is “trying to dupe us into believing that because Canadian taxpayer dollars are going to countries where abortion is supposedly illegal, the money won’t be spent on abortion.”
Leon Benoit (Vegreville-Wainwright) placed a motion on the Order Paper that condemned PP founder Margaret Sanger’s eugenic philosophy and condemn IPPF’s “use of her name … for the annual Margaret Sanger award.”
The CBC.ca’s Kady O’Malley mocked the three, saying Vellacott and Benoit “are the only members of the current Conservative caucus bold enough to stick their necks out in response to Trost’s prediction that his pro-life colleagues would take an ‘aggressive stance’ in voicing their (pro-life) concerns.”
On the CBC Trost went further in criticizing his own government. On Power and Politics, he said that Ottawa “should take a position that’s at least moderate, rather than the extreme left position we’re taking.”
Trost also said he is not attacking his government but rather critiquing a single policy decision. He said he has never hidden his pro-life views, has the backing of his constituency association and voters, and that he owed them “my democratic voice.” Aaron Wherry of Maclean’s applauded Trost for being no mere “cue-card reader” representing “the party brand.”