16 September 2011

Media release – foreign minister commended on lifting gag rule

11 March 2009
Sustainable Population Australia Inc (SPA) warmly congratulates the ForeignMinister, Stephen Smith, on his decision today to lift Australia’s version of the ‘globalgag rule’.
The gag rule was a guideline that prevented Australian overseas aid money going toany non-government organisation that undertook or even advised on abortion,including in countries where abortion was legal. It was a bargaining chip introducedby the Howard Government as a means to persuade Senator Brian Harradine to passthe partial sale of Telstra in 1996.
National President of SPA, Dr John Coulter, says that, while the decision is longoverdue, it is nevertheless very welcome. US President Barack Obama lifted the USversion three days after taking office.
“The side effect of these guidelines was to cause a dramatic decline in familyplanning funds”, says Dr Coulter. “In the intervening years countless women havedied from unsafe abortions and in childbirth.
Meanwhile populations exploded in those countries that are recipients of Australianaid money, not least Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Solomons. This has putan enormous strain on infrastructure. It has led to very large numbers of ill-educatedand unemployed youth, a cause of much of the unrest in this ‘arc of instability’ to ournorth.”
Dr Coulter is appalled that the Prime Minister has not supported the lifting of theseguidelines and is prepared to impose on women in other countries neo-colonialconditions which were not applicable to Australian women.
“The guidelines were utterly hypocritical, denying the same services that are availableto Australian women, even in those countries where abortion was legal”, he says. “Weare profoundly grateful that the Foreign Minister was able to see through thishypocrisy and make the right decision.”
Further information: John Coulter 08 8388 2153

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