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U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deliver a joint press conference in Ottawa, on May 30, 2019. The Prime Minister said his conversation with the Vice-President was 'cordial,' despite the leaders’ vast difference of opinion on abortion rights.

LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau conveyed Canada’s concern about the recent passage of anti-abortion laws in the United States during a meeting Thursday with Vice-President Mike Pence, who in turn defended the Trump administration’s firm position against abortion.

Mr. Trudeau raised what he has described as the “backsliding of women’s rights” during a meeting with Mr. Pence in Ottawa. Some American states have recently passed anti-abortion laws, with the aim of provoking the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that provides constitutional protection for a woman’s right to choose.

“I highlighted to the Vice-President that there was a significant amount of concern amongst Canadians on the new anti-choice laws being passed in a number of American states and highlighted that Canadians and, indeed this government, will always be a staunch defender of women’s rights and a woman’s right to choose,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters during a joint news conference with Mr. Pence.

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The Prime Minister said the conversation was “cordial,” despite the leaders’ vast difference of opinion on abortion rights. Mr. Pence said that while Mr. Trump appreciates his relationship with Mr. Trudeau, his administration will always stand for the “right to life.”

“I think one of the great things about the relationship between the United States and Canada is that we’re able to be candid with one another,” Mr. Pence said.

“But let me be clear, I’m very proud to be part of a pro-life administration and our administration has taken steps to stand for the sanctity of life at home and abroad.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic, Erin O’Toole, accused Mr. Trudeau of trying to politicize the abortion debate in Canada by raising it with Mr. Pence. Mr. O’Toole underlined Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s “crystal clear” commitment to not reopen the debate in Canada should he become prime minister following this fall’s federal election.

“I’m disappointed that the Prime Minister appears to be attempting to import divisive debates elsewhere into the Canadian election," Mr. O’Toole said.

Numerous states have passed tougher anti-abortion laws in recent weeks, including Alabama, which is set to make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi are also trying to pass laws effectively banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Mr. Trump has also cracked down on international abortion funding. Days after taking office in January, 2017, he reinstated the so-called global gag rule prohibiting U.S. government financial support for international organizations that provide abortions or give abortion advice, leaving a US$600-million global funding gap. The order was expanded in late March to include non-governmental organizations that fund other groups that support abortion.

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Shortly after Mr. Trump reinstated the global gag order, the Trudeau government announced $650-million for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide. The announcement came in addition to $3.5-billion allocated by the previous Conservative government for maternal, newborn and child health. Both sets of funding expire in 2020.

Dozens of NGOs are now urging the Trudeau government to renew the funding by investing $1.4-billion a year until 2030 to support the full spectrum of international women and children’s health and rights, from vaccines to family-planning services.

Health and rights groups worry the massive global funding gap left by the Trump administration’s crackdown on international abortion funding will deepen if Canada and other countries do not renew and increase their investments in the field.

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