Australian Christian Lobby campaigns for Trump-style abortion gag on aid providers

Australian Christian Lobby campaigns for Trump-style abortion gag on aid providers

Australian Christian Lobby campaigns for Trump-style abortion gag on aid providers

Updated 1 May 2017, 22:05 AEST

The Australian Christian Lobby is campaigning to have a gag on government funding to foreign abortion services applied to Australian aid providers.

In one of his first moves as US President, Donald Trump angered many in the development community by reintroducing a gag on such services imposed by previous Republican presidents, which opponents say will affect the health of millions of women around the world.

A similar policy in Australia was repealed by Kevin Rudd eight years ago.

Australian organisations train providers of critical sexual and reproductive health services for women in the Pacific — programs which could be severely affected by such a gag.

Wendy Francis, the Australian Christian Lobby's spokesperson for women, said such organisations should be focusing on promoting proper berthing facilities, which she says is a much more important women's health issue than abortion.

"The greatest need for women are clean berthing facilities. One of the greatest needs certainly globally is clean water. So these are the things I think we should be actually really targeting," she said.

Data from the latest poll on aid shows that most Australians believe women in Pacific Island countries should have access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Ms Francis said imposing Australian views of which health services are needed in Pacific countries is culturally insensitive.

"So I think that actually imposing our position on women's health issues is completely irresponsible and actually quite colonial," she said.

"We really need to know what women in pacific island countries feel is important to them."

Asked what those women did want, Ms Francis said she had not spoken to any women in the Pacific.

The main aim of the global gag rule is to stop aid agencies giving advice about abortion.

But Ann Brassil, head of Family Planning NSW, which trains health workers in the Pacific, said it also prevented such organisations from providing a range of other services associated with sexual and reproductive health.

"The global gag rule means that in the US all funds that are restricted to any organisation that has any conversation with any women or her family about abortion including trying to discourage unsafe abortion," she said.

If the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade introduced the gag, all funding for family planning would cease, Ms Brassil said.

No Australian aid funding was allocated directly to funding abortion services but that programs encouraging health workers to warn women about unsafe abortions would put her organisation in violation of the gag, Ms Brassil added.