POLITICS

Gag Rule? Julie Bishop Proves Australia Will Do Its Own Thing On Sexual Health

The aid relationship with International Planned Parenthood Federation is being maintained.

15/02/2017 2:31 PM AEDT | Updated 15/02/2017 4:36 PM AEDT
Louise Kennerley/Fairfax
Doing the right thing.

CANBERRA -- Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced the Australian Government will give an extra $19 million to help strengthen sexual and reproductive health, rights and support during humanitarian crises.

It's $9.5 million to be spent on delivering the Sexual and Reproductive Health Program in Crisis and Post Crisis Settings (SPRINT) in the Indo-Pacific region and another $9.5 million on measuring disadvantage along gender lines, a world-first gender-sensitive and multidimensional measure of poverty, the Individual Deprivation Measure.

It is hoped it will help better target foreign aid to where it is needed. To women, when it is needed.

"It's the right thing to do, as a matter of principle," Bishop told a conference at the Australia National in Canberra.

"It's also the smart thing to do, as improving gender equality promotes economic prosperity."

But the $9.5 million over three years for SPRINT is particularly noteworthy.

In an independent stride, Australia is keeping an ongoing partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

It's that international NGO that the U.S President has attempted to "gag".

Yes, Donald Trump's particularly heavy use of the "global gag rule" to restrict U.S foreign aid relating to abortion advice is not very old, but starting to take effect.

Aid groups are scrambling with the expected withdrawal of the world's number one donor. It is, according to billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, about to "create a void that even a foundation like ours can't fill".

NGOs, and in the Trump's broad application of the gag rule, all government departments and agencies must certify that they will not "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" -- or lose U.S. funding.

Programs specifically relating to women and girls are expected to lose out, but it will end up affecting men and boys as well.

One of the prominent organisations to not comply and lose funding is the International Planned Parenthood Federation, but it insists it is unfazed.

Planned Parenthood in the U.S is also being targeted for funding cuts now that Republicans have majorities in both chambers and Trump is President.

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Labor Senator Lisa Singh says Trump's global gag rule is an "absolutely terrible attack on all women and girls."

Labor Senator Lisa Singh had called on the Australian Government to do more in the expected absence of United States foreign aid, describing President Trump's move Wednesday an "absolutely terrible attack on all women and girls".

Bishop has clearly indicated Australia is doing its own thing.

"Access to sexual and reproductive health services, particularly family planning, also helps reduce maternal and child mortality," she said.

"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 crises."

US$9.5 billion in U.S foreign aid is estimated to be at risk.

Nations, including Canada and many from Europe have pledged funds to counter President Trump's ban.

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