Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 8, 2010
Poor moms need health care, not abortion – obstetrician
MaterCare founder skeptical gov't talk will lead to action
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
ST. JOHN'S, NL - Dr. Robert Walley urges Canada not to impose abortion on the developing world in any initiative for the health care of mothers and children.
Instead the obstetrician who founded MaterCare International (MCI), an unabashedly Catholic charity, urges Canada to help provide women and their babies with the basic care they would insist upon for their wives and daughters here at home.
Walley urged Canada to offer hope to mothers in the developing world, rather than forcing abortion as a solution. Children are viewed as a gift in poorer countries. People there look at our abortion rate, our attitude towards children and do not want this imposed upon them, he said in an interview from MCI headquarters in St. John's.
At the same time, the birth of a child should not be a risk to the life of the mother through easily preventable causes, such as lack of proper sanitation or the care of properly trained doctors, nurses or midwives, he said.
While Walley commended Prime Minister Stephen Harper's promise to lead a G8 initiative to combat the horrific rate of maternal and child mortality, he expressed skepticism much will become of the effort.
MaterCare was founded in 1997, in the wake of the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, which included a goal addressing the plight of pregnant women.
Since then, Walley has seen many governments pay lip service to problems of maternal care and child care, but lofty commitments have not resulted in much concrete action.
THOSE IN THE FIELD
He urged the Harper government to listen to professionals who are actually working in the field - especially those who live in the targeted countries - rather than the advice of bureaucrats from large-scale NGOs whose experience is limited to boardrooms.
MaterCare has made an effort to work with health care professionals in the countries it serves, to identify their priorities and help them achieve their goals, he said, noting current projects in Ghana, Haiti and Kenya.
Since its beginnings in St. John's, MaterCare has become a registered charity in Canada, the United States, Australia and Poland. Walley said it has an application to CIDA for an educational grant to raise awareness of the problems around maternal care in poor countries, but has waited months without a response.
Meanwhile, Walley has continued his overseas efforts to help mothers deliver their babies safely. He flew to Haiti within a week of the Jan. 12 earthquake to help expectant mothers.
PREGNANT WOMEN FORGOTTEN
A catastrophe like Haiti's does not stop the ordinary process of pregnancy and birth, he noted. An estimated 60,000 women are pregnant and in need of assistance, but they have been largely forgotten by the world.
Their hospitals and homes have been flattened. "Where are they supposed to give birth? In the street?" he asked.
The Harper government has said its priority will be proper nutrition, sanitation and inoculations, but International Development Minister Bev Oda has not ruled out abortion and contraception as she consults with NGOs.
Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff has insisted abortion and contraception be included in any Canada-led initiative in the developing world.
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