The Australian Government has ended a 13-year ban on federal aid funds going to NGOs that promote or perform abortions.
The decision was taken after a review of the policy by the government. Stephen Smith, Australia’s Foreign Minister, said that aid funds could now be used “to support the same range of family planning services for women in developing countries as are supported for women in Australia, subject to the national laws of the relevant nation concerned”, reports CNSNews.
He said that avoiding terminations through family planning services and advice would continue to form the focus of Australian funded activities.
"Australian and international NGOs will continue to be able to choose what services they deliver in line with their own philosophies and policies," he said.
Smith also promised to reverse the decline of aid for family planning organisations, which has been falling in Australia for over 10 years.
The move comes just six weeks after US President Barack Obama ended a similar ban in the States. That decision led to Australian abortion advocates stepping up their campaign to end the ban in Australia.
In Labour party talks on Wednesday, the Prime Minister and party leader Kevin Rudd said he was against removing the ban, while a majority of the party wanted it overturned.
The decision to overturn the ban on abortion funding was welcomed by Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator in the Australian parliament for Australian Greens.
“Australia, until this morning, was the last country who had these ridiculous, archaic, inhumane restrictions placed on our aid funding and support. What we now see is Australia has stepped up in line with Barack Obama, who in his very first week as president moved to ensure that these restrictions would be lifted," she said.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has spoken out against the government’s decision. Jim Wallace, managing director of ACL said, “This will be the first time in Australia’s history that our aid dollars are used to kill unborn children overseas. However this is packaged it will result in aid money being used for an intent which is opposite to that of many of its most passionate advocates.”
Wallace also noted that during the 2007 election campaign, in which Kevin Rudd was elected, many churches and Christian groups lobbied for greater funds for international aid.
“The great majority of Christians who pushed for this increased aid will be justly appalled to think that some of those aid dollars will now be re-directed towards ending the life of unborn children in poor countries," he said.
According to Wallace, 10,000 Christians have sent emails expressing concern on the issue to federal politicians as part of ACL’s “Aid, not abortion” campaign.
Australia follows Obama in lifting ban on overseas abortion funding
Published 11 March 2009 | Jenna Lyle