Free the Children has denied that documents on its web site criticizing the Harper government’s maternal and child health plan for its lack of abortion funding reflect the organization’s policy. The organization posted two fact sheets about maternal and child health ahead of the G8 and G20 summits for youth, as part of its Keep the Promise campaign, encouraging youth to keep politicians accountable to their pledges.

On July 5, reported that Free the Children took down the fact sheets shortly after they asked them about the role of abortion in their development work. “The organization, and its Board of Directors, does not have an official policy on the issue of abortion, or advocate on the issue,” Free the Children said in a statement to LifeSiteNews.

On its maternal health fact sheet, the organization wrote, “there is a consensus that family planning, including abortion, is crucial to reducing maternal deaths and improving the economic status of women in the poorest parts of the world. Yet, Canada has disclosed that it will not fund abortion in its G8 child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries.” The document also partly blames Canada’s refusal to give funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) for the reduction in services and staff in the IPPF facility in Zambia. “This means that fewer Zambians will have access to contraceptives and maternal health care. It may result in more unsafe abortions, which are a leading cause of death.” According to the child health fact sheet, Canada’s refusal to fund overseas abortions “shows disregard for recipient countries’ concerns.”

Free the Children was founded by anti-child labour activist Craig Kielburger, a graduate of the Ontario Catholic school system, at the age of 12 in 1995. Free the Children receives a significant amount of revenue from Catholic schools across Ontario and has clubs in some of these schools.

However, it promotes family planning services in health clinics in Kenya and India. Also, Kielburger and his brother, Marc, criticized the Conservative Party’s decision to cut IPPF funding as “a paternalistic refusal to offer women in Africa the same rights offered to women in Canada” in an article they co-wrote in the May 9 issue of the Toronto Star.

Marc Kielburger told the July 17 Catholic Register that Free the Children “does not promote abortion, nor has it ever.” He said that the fact sheets were created by an intern as part of a research project and did not represent the policy of Free the Children, and that the documents were posted online without approval by the Kielburgers or senior members of the organization. They were removed from the site three days after they were posted, once someone noticed the problem. However, it was still possible to find them via internet search.

John-Henry Westen, editor of LifeSiteNews, does not believe the explanation. “These were their own documents … they only pulled them once we informed them,” Westen told The Interim. When LifeSiteNews contacted Free the Children, they did not receive the same story as was given to the Catholic Register. According to Westen, although Free the Children’s activities undermine Catholic teaching, one might be skeptical and speculate that they perceive LifeSiteNews’ allegations as a threat to their fundraising efforts at Catholic schools and therefore want to deny their promotion of abortion.