One liberal Canadian official representing Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s administration is arguing that abortion and contraception are the keys to ending poverty.
During an interview this week with CTV News, Marie-Claude Bibeau, who serves as Canada’s minister of international development, rejected protests from Catholic bishops who earlier this year called the country’s abortion policies a “reprehensible example” of imperialism.
“Contraception and even abortion is only a tool to end poverty,” Bibeau told the news outlet, noting that the Trudeau administration wants “to give [women] the control over their lives.”
“We shouldn’t look at contraception as the objective. This is not the objective,” she continued. “This is only a tool to reduce poverty and inequality and to make an impact in terms of development and peace and security in the world.”
Several Catholic leaders protested the Canadian government in March, after Trudeau announced that his administration would spend $650 million on sex education, improving reproductive health, and offering family-planning services — to include abortion.
“Such a policy is a reprehensible example of Western cultural imperialism and an attempt to impose misplaced but so-called Canadian ‘values’ on other nations and people,” Bishop Douglas Crosby, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said at at the time. “It exploits women when they are most in need of care and support, and tragically subverts true prenatal health care.”
But despite the disagreement between the Trudeau administration and Catholic leaders, Bibeau, speaking during the Family Planning Summit in London, England, said the government still values the church’s perspective.
“It’s important to have the conversation with the religious leaders so we can understand each other,” she said. “We have to have honest conversations with our religious leaders, and I’m more than happy to have this discussion in Canada.”
Trudeau defended his spending decision earlier this year. He said unsafe abortions and a lack of reproductive health care options are putting women at risk and keeping them from being able to “achieve their potential through education, through involvement in their community, through a broad range of opportunities.”
“It is important that as a world we recognize that empowering women — that respecting their rights — is fundamental to building a world in which everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed,” he said.
Catholic leaders, it should be noted, are not the only ones who oppose Trudeau’s controversial spending. Former Canadian politician Rona Ambrose, who was the interim leader of the Conservative Party when the spending was first announced, called the funding “divisive.”
“We’ve always taken the position that this is not just divisive, but illegal, in a lot of the countries that we give aid to,” she said. “Our position was always, ‘Let’s stick to things that we know will bring people together and everyone can support,’ which was the maternal and child health initiative.”