Australia responds to the 'global gag rule'

By Lisa Cornish 15 February 2017

A maternal and child health training in Bangladesh. Photo by: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade / CC BY

Australia today announced $9.5 million Australian dollars ($7.3 million) in funding for the International Planned Parenthood Foundation. The move was seen by many as a pointed rebuke to President Donald Trump’s controversial reinstatement of a strengthened “global gag rule,” which bars any foreign NGO that offers or advises on abortion from receiving U.S. funds.

The announcement by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the 2017 Australasian Aid Conference, in Canberra on Feb. 15, was made in a keynote address that pointedly spoke to the importance of an aid program that supports women and girls.

“It’s the right thing to do, it’s a matter of principle,” she told the audience. “It’s also the smart thing to do as improving gender equality promotes economic prosperity.”

Under Bishop, Australia’s aid program has prioritized gender equality and the protection of women. “I have set a target so that at least 80 percent of our aid investment must effectively address gender issues in their implementation,” Bishop said.

Sexual and reproductive health, she noted, is a critical component of Australia’s program to reduce maternal and child mortality.

“Such needs often increase during disasters, so Australia supports access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe birthing, access to contraception and services for victims of rape during times of crisis,” Bishop said. “So far through the SPRINT program, for sexual and reproductive health services in crisis and post-crisis settings, we’ve helped over 890,000 people during humanitarian crises including in Fiji, Nepal, Philippines and elsewhere.”

Calling the SPRINT program “essential” and one that saves lives and rebuilds communities, Bishop’s announcement of a further $9.5 million in funding to the IPPF allows a continuation of this work over the next three year and cements Australia’s support for sexual and reproductive health in the aid program. Since 2007, Australia has contributed $26.3 million Australian dollars ($20.2 million) to support SPRINT.

The announcement was met with strong applause from the audience with representatives from government, research and Australia’s development sector.

To further ensure aid funding has the right impact, especially on women and girls during humanitarian crises, Bishop announced additional funding of $9.5 million Australian dollars ($7.3 million) to the Australian National University and the International Women’s Development Agency to research and implement a program that analyzes the extent of the disadvantage faced in developing countries. “The result will be the individual deprivation measure, a data tool for policymakers to better target our aid and improve its effectiveness,” she explained.

The announcement is expected to have strong cross-party support in Australia’s parliament. Labor Senator Lisa Singh addressed parliament on Tuesday, criticizing the global gag rule and urging Australia’s government to pledge funds to fill the funding gap for sexual and reproductive health services left by the Trump administration’s decision.

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About the author

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Lisa Cornishlisa_cornish

Lisa Cornish is a Devex reporter based in Canberra, Australia. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane and online through news.com.au. Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.


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