Media release: foreign minister commended on lifting gag rule
Sustainable Population Australia Inc (SPA) warmly congratulates the Foreign
Minister, Stephen Smith, on his decision today to lift Australia’s version of the ‘global
The gag rule was a guideline that prevented Australian overseas aid money going to
any non-government organisation that undertook or even advised on abortion,
including in countries where abortion was legal. It was a bargaining chip introduced
by the Howard Government as a means to persuade Senator Brian Harradine to pass
the partial sale of Telstra in 1996.
National President of SPA, Dr John Coulter, says that, while the decision is long
overdue, it is nevertheless very welcome. US President Barack Obama lifted the US
version three days after taking office.
“The side effect of these guidelines was to cause a dramatic decline in family
planning funds”, says Dr Coulter. “In the intervening years countless women have
died from unsafe abortions and in childbirth.
Meanwhile populations exploded in those countries that are recipients of Australian
aid money, not least Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Solomons. This has put
an enormous strain on infrastructure. It has led to very large numbers of ill-educated
and unemployed youth, a cause of much of the unrest in this ‘arc of instability’ to our
Dr Coulter is appalled that the Prime Minister has not supported the lifting of these
guidelines and is prepared to impose on women in other countries neo-colonial
conditions which were not applicable to Australian women.
“The guidelines were utterly hypocritical, denying the same services that are available
to Australian women, even in those countries where abortion was legal”, he says. “We
are profoundly grateful that the Foreign Minister was able to see through this
hypocrisy and make the right decision.”
Further information: John Coulter 08 8388 2153