By Michelle Zilio | The Globe and Mail | 8 June 2018
A group of high-profile feminist leaders will take the Trump administration to task over its position on global reproductive rights, including its refusal to fund organizations that fail to disavow abortion, when they meet on Saturday with G7 leaders.
Members of the Group of Seven gender-equality advisory council, created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a part of Canada's G7 presidency, will join leaders for a breakfast meeting on Saturday morning in Charlevoix, Que.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail on Friday, Canada's ambassador to France, Isabelle Hudon, said the gender-advisory council, which she co-chairs alongside billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates, will not shy away from urging U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider his policy on sexual and reproductive rights. The council recently submitted a report to the G7 calling on member states to take concrete steps to promote the rights of women and girls, including access to safe abortion services.
"There's some recommendations that will be sensitive to some... but we've put on paper what we think is required to get done," Ms. Hudon said.
"We're ready to get push back and as the Prime Minister [Trudeau] told us, we will get headwinds."
Shortly after being sworn in as President in January, 2017, Mr. Trump reinstated the so-called global gag rule prohibiting U.S. funding to international organizations that fail to disavow abortion, leading a massive global funding gap in reproductive rights, including access to family-planning programs.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women and member of the gender-advisory council, said she is not expecting Mr. Trump to budge on the issue of sexual and reproductive rights.
"All the indications are that there hasn't been a change in [the U.S.] position, but on these things, we have to keep on trying," Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
Katja Iversen is the president of Women Deliver, a gender-equality advocacy group that focuses on maternal, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and also a member of the gender-advisory council.
She said that while the council will promote the importance of "women owning their own body" at the G7 meeting on Saturday, it's unclear if leaders will acknowledge the issue in a joint statement.
"When you look at politics, that will not be for certain. But that doesn't mean it's not important," Ms. Iversen said.
G7 development ministers met in Whistler, B.C., last weekend. A joint statement from the meeting failed to mention reproductive rights - a stark contrast with Canadian International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau's public summary of the gathering, which called for access to "comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and information, including family planning."
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, a pro-choice charity, questioned the extent to which the Trudeau government will push the United States on sexual and reproductive rights, given the lack of political will from Mr. Trump.
"That being said, I think Canada is doing its best in a challenging political context," said Sarah Kennell, Action Canada's director of government relations.
Shortly after Mr. Trump reinstated the global gag order last year, the Trudeau government announced $650-million for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.
In terms of announcements on the G7 theme of gender equality, the group is expected to agree to a new initiative on girls' education on Saturday. Canadian development organizations have called on the country to contribute $500-million toward a US$1.3-billion G7 commitment for girls' education.