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In response to a constituent’s concern about Australia’s funding of abortions overseas, Bob McMullan, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, sent him a six-page AusAid document entitled Family Planning and the Aid Program: Guiding Principles. This document raises more questions than it answers. Although the constituent asked which non-government organisations (NGOs) were given Australian taxpayers’ money, how these NGOs allocated it and in which countries the money was used, his queries were not specifically answered. McMullan wrote: “Australia only funds established and trusted partners to implement health and family planning activities. All organisations need to comply with the family planning guidance and this will be monitored through consultations, agreements, approval of the NGOs’ annual development plans … and regular reporting of progress against their objectives. NGOs’ annual reports are also reviewed to assess how and where the funds have been used.”


This paragraph from McMullan’s reply sounds like waffle. Who are these “established and trusted” partners? Why doesn’t McMullan name them? How trustworthy are NGOs which kill unborn children in developing countries instead of helping mothers and babies? Are these non-profit NGOs? NGOs such as Planned Parenthood, although theoretically non-profit, make millions of dollars each year, which are ploughed back into more abortion “services”. Will McMullan make available the annual balance sheets of these NGOs? 
The constituent also asked if the abortion services were provided for forced abortions in China or sex-selection
abortions in Vietnam. McMullan replied: “Australia does not support sex selective or ‘coercive’ practices. The Guiding Principles reflect the principles of the Program of Action from the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which urges governments to take necessary steps to prevent pre-natal sex selection.
“Australia will only fund organisations that operate in line with the Guiding Principles and the Program of Action from ICPD, which calls for family planning programs to be completely voluntary and not include demographic targets and family planning quotas.”

McMullan does not clarify how his department will ensure that abortions funded by Australia are “completely voluntary”. Having lived in India, I am aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle pressures exerted on wives by husbands and in-laws to produce male children and abort the unwanted females. In poor countries where pregnant women do not have their own income, it is very difficult for them to resist family pressure to abort female foetuses. Is McMullan aware that in India brides have been burnt in so-called “kitchen fires” for having brought insufficient “dowry” to the marriage?

Sex-selection abortions are legal in Victoria and the ACT — and de facto legal in the other states, so how does McMullan intend to stop them in other countries which are the recipients of Australian “aid”? On page 4 of the Guidelines, among other services offered are “safe and professional abortion services (both medical and surgical)”. 
I have a problem with the description “safe” in regard to abortion, as the UN and International Planned Parenthood
Federation have admitted that maternal death rates are higher in countries with liberal abortion laws (see my previous article, “Rudd Government ignores abortion link to maternal deaths”, News Weekly, October 3, 2009).

Besides the higher death rate, there are now numerous studies linking abortion with increased risk of breast cancer;
with increased rates of premature birth in subsequent pregnancies (which can result in cerebral palsy and other problems for babies) and with higher incidences of depression, substance abuse and suicide. So just how “safe” is any abortion? At a Melbourne forum in October, organised by the federal Health Department on developing a Women’s Health Policy, a woman representing VicHealth said her priority was that abortion should be safe and legal. I asked her to define “safe” and what was the follow-up period by abortion clinics to evaluate the “safety” of their abortions. Did they follow up for a week to ensure their clients did not bleed excessively or develop infections? Or was there a longer-term follow-up to determine psychological trauma, infertility and other complications?


She replied that she considered an abortion safe if a woman’s career prospects and income were improved. I asked if she considered Germaine Greer’s abortions a safe outcome: Greer has a successful career and a good income, but became infertile and was desperately trying to have a baby in her thirties. The VicHealth lady said she could not answer for Greer because she did not know enough about her case.

Bob McMullan’s AusAid guidelines, which claim to conform to the ICPD Program of Action, are actually in breach of it, because the ICPD stressed that states parties should “make appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning”.

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), Australian representative of the international Coalition
on Abortion/Breast Cancer, is co-ordinator
of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.




Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN