The Australian government has been under pressure since U.S. President Barack Obama’s first days in office. Australian activists and political parties have been pushing the government to follow Obama’s example and
: on funding organizations that promote abortions in the developing world.
“Australia is now the only country that continues to enforce these draconian restrictions on our aid programs,” said Australian Green Party Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young as she called for the government to overturn what she labeled as a “cruel and archaic policy.”
Hanson-Young’s motion, which was blocked by the Australian government on Feb. 5, called on the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith in particular – to “show compassion” and lift a ban which, according to the Greens, is increasing the suffering of women who already receive poor maternal assistance.
“34,000 mothers die in our region alone per year because of a lack of maternal health support,” Hanson-Young said. “Australia’s aid funding could be better used to reduce these alarming numbers.”
Introduced in 1996 by Australia’s conservative former Prime Minister John Howard, the ban has been at the center of a harsh debate after Obama overturned a similar policy Jan. 23. The U.S. ban was first adopted by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984, lifted by Bill Clinton in 1993 and reintroduced by Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush in 2001.
“For the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries,” Obama said as he overturned the funding restrictions.