More than 130 parliamentarians from around the world met in Ottawa in November for a meeting to discuss global strategies to promote “reproductive rights” and “access to reproductive health care” (read: abortion). The meeting was hosted by the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians for Population and Development, headed by Jean Augustine, the secretary of state for multiculturalism and women’s affairs, and co-sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. It was just one of a series of meetings that is taking place around the world.

According to the UNFPA website, the meeting was designed “to promote dialogue among the parliamentarians from all regions on the implementation of the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development) Platform of Action, with a view to achieving further commitment to collective action in the areas of resource mobilization and creation of an enabling environment for population and development.”

In fact, these meetings have had little to do with the promotion of true development. Instead, they have primarily dealt with curbing population growth in developing countries. The participants at the meeting in Ottawa drafted and signed “The Ottawa Commitment,” a document that laid out 15 agenda items. The priorities of the parliamentarians were made clear in this agreement, as seven out of the 15 items focused solely on sexual and “reproductive” health matters and only three addressed true development issues such as education, clean water, sanitation and equitable access to agricultural resources.

The parliamentarians signed commitments that urged countries to strive to set aside five to 10 per cent of national development budgets for population and “reproductive health” programs, to give high priority to achieving universal access to “reproductive health services,” to promote the reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity and of unsafe abortion as a public health priority and as a reproductive rights concern (this excuse to expand abortion is based on the lie that abortion is inherently safer than childbirth) and to make every effort to achieve universal access to reproductive health services and commodities by the year 2015.

The definition of “development” at this meeting was extremely narrow and focused only on one aspect of the person; namely, human reproduction. People are seen as the root cause of poverty and hunger. The response was to try to curb population by attempting to make abortion an international human right. This would be done by spending already scarce development funds on “reproductive health programs and services,” rather than by addressing the more basic problems of poor distribution of, and lack of access to, resources such as basic education and health care.

Meetings among pro-abortion advocates and parliamentarians, like this one, have been steadily increasing in number. The international community, and those who draft the international treaties and documents, realize the importance of trying to influence national legislators. Itis through members of legislatures that laws are made and passed, development money is allocated and policies are implemented. As Thoraya Obaid, executive director of UNFPA, stressed, it is through elected individuals that “words from the pages in a United Nations document (are moved) to real action on the ground.”

The line between international and national realms has been blurred. The influence of the international community on drafting national legislation and policies cannot be ignored. Canada is often cited as being a leader in the defence of human rights and a champion of development. It is of the utmost importance for individuals to continue to educate and question our elected officials on Canada’s international development policies and international agreements. This would help ensure that the actions the government approves and implements, and the monies it allocates toward international assistance, are directed to activities that promote and foster true development – which respects the dignity of each person – and does not advance the causes of abortion and so-called “safe-sex.”