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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 142


Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (17:03): I rise to warn against Australia following the path Donald Trump has taken on foreign health aid. This is an issue that matters to a lot of people in my electorate, and has been raised with me. The US President has reinstated a Reagan-era policy that prohibits the granting of American foreign aid to health providers who discuss abortion as a family planning option. Let us be clear: we are not talking about organisations that provide abortion services—there is already a ban on that. This freezes funding to non-government organisations in poor countries if they offer termination counselling, and applies even if the organisations use other sources of funding to undertake this counselling.

We probably all saw the photo of 10 men and a lone woman as the President signed the decree. The irony that this is a decision by men on what rights a woman has is striking. The consequences of this legislation every time a Republican President reinstates it, as George W Bush did, is that women's health clinics close, contraceptive suppliers wither and abortion rates skyrocket. In other words, women and their families suffer. Is that really what these men want? I hope not.

Australian organisations have a strong record of lifting the standards of women's reproductive health across developing countries. My own experience of family-planning foreign aid comes through years I spent as a director of the non-profit Family Planning NSW. The Pacific, where most of Family Planning NSW's foreign aid is directed, has some of the worst reproductive and sexual health statistics globally. There are high rates of maternal and infant mortality, high levels of unintended and teenage pregnancies and unacceptably high levels of cervical cancer. We are talking about work close to home in countries like PNG and Timor-Leste and across islands like Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

In Australia, we have strong guidelines established in 2009 around our foreign aid health funding. They reflect the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action, adopted by 179 governments in 1994, which supports a comprehensive approach to family planning and reproductive health activities. Our funding is based on the idea that women and men should freely decide the number, spacing and timing of their children and have access to the information and means to exercise this choice. Australia's approach ensures we actively work to improve the quality of care in family planning and reproductive health, making the prevention of unwanted pregnancies the highest priority, with every attempt being made to minimise the need for abortion.