Former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson tackles the issue of Hillary Clinton’s criticism of Ottawa’s G8 maternal health initiative which excludes abortion. I’m going to gloss over the fact that Gerson too easily accepts the notion that contraception (condoms) is a legitimate component of the development agenda and focus narrowly on the issue of abortion. He says that Clinton’s abortion advocacy on this file threatens the always fragile coalition between liberals and conservatives (mostly social conservatives) on development assistance – the “Bono-Bush coalition” as Gerson calls it. He explains:

Liberals need to understand — however strong their pro-choice convictions — how offensive many conservatives find the global health argument for abortion. It seems like addressing poverty by doing away with the poor; like fighting disease by getting rid of those with diseases. If the Obama administration and global health advocates place abortion rights at the center of their development agenda, they will not only solidify conservative opposition on child and maternal health but will also undermine Republican support for development spending as a whole.

While Canada’s opposition parties and their abortion-advocating NGO allies claim a global consensus that abortion and contraception are part of maternal health, Gerson, who was a driving force in the Bush White House for greater American engagement on development issues, notes that “the recent consensus on development spending has been pro-life, or at least neutral on abortion.” Scratching this “ideological itch” he says, is “likely to divide a movement” that is working to provide more than rhetoric to save and improve the lives of those in the developing world. Michael Ignatieff , Bob Rae and Hillary Clinton threaten to make such efforts impossible because they are more committed to promoting abortion than they to saving the lives of the vulnerable who are desperate need of nutrition, clean water, vaccination and safe delivery programs.

Remember: every dollar that goes to abortion does not pay for micro-nutrients, inoculations, better health care, and safe water.