POLITICS

Federal Government Accused Of Undermining Reproductive Rights

Australia aid funding for family planning has been halved over the past three years.

06/07/2017 3:41 PM AEST | Updated 06/07/2017 3:42 PM AEST
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Senator Claire Moore: "We are concerned that these cuts will impact women and girls across the world."

CANBERRA -- Federal Labor has accused the Turnbull Government of using Australia's aid program to undermine women's reproductive rights and said it has "added to the damage" created by the U.S Trump Administration in February when it brought back the global gag rule relating to abortion counselling.

HuffPost Australia revealed on Wednesday that the Abbott/Turnbull Governments have quietly halved the funding relating to family planning and reproductive health programs over the past three years.

Figures released from the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget show funding for family planning has been slashed in half since 2012-2013, decreasing from $46 million to $23 million in 2015-2106.

The decline in spending for reproductive health is larger than the overall heavy cuts to foreign aid over four consecutive years.

"We are concerned that these cuts will impact women and girls across the world", said Claire Moore, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific said in a statement.

In 2012, at an international Family Planning Summit, the Gillard Labor Government pledged to double funding for family planning services to $53 million a year and to spend an additional $58 million over five years.

Moore said Labor is "extremely concerned" the Turnbull Government is undermining women's reproductive rights and "adding to the damage" caused by the US reintroducing its global gag rule by "failing to deliver on our commitment to fund reproductive health."

"Labor supports a woman's right to decide," she said.

"We understand our future world needs family planning and two thirds of that need lies within our region."

In a statement to HuffPost Australia, the Foreign Minister defended the Turnbull Government's commitment to family planning spending in the aid budget;

"The Australian Government is maintaining its long-standing commitment to the promotion and delivery of sexual and reproductive health services and it is a priority in our foreign policy and aid program.

"We committed $303 million in funding for maternal and child health, including reproductive health care, in 2015-16.

"Access to sexual and reproductive health services remains critical to women's empowerment, improving gender equality, and reducing maternal and child mortality.

"Australia continues to support key partners such as the United Nations Population Fund and Marie Stopes International.

"We also provide support for life-saving sexual and reproductive health services in crisis settings, providing safer birthing environments, maternal health services, HIV prevention and treatment, protection against sexual violence and assistance to survivors of rape and violence in crisis-affected places."

Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop

Trump placed $9 billion of U.S aid money at risk, by announcing - not long after being inaugurated - that U.S government departments and NGOs have to certify they will not "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" -- or lose funding from the world's biggest aid donor.

In 2012, at an international Family Planning Summit, the Gillard Labor Government pledged to double funding for family planning services to $53 million a year and to spend an additional $58 million over five years.

There's a follow-up Family Planning Summit in London on July 11. Bishop will not be attending, instead the Turnbull Government will be represented by Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, former Liberal minister Sharman Stone.

Aid groups, including Plan International Australia and Marie Stopes International Australia, want the lost funding over the past three years reinstated.

Marie Stopes CEO Chris Turner told HuffPost Australia on Wednesday his NGO was recommending an additional $10 million a year over the next three years.

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