"Australia needs to do its part where the United States has failed." - Private Member's Motion

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

MONDAY, 27 MARCH 2017

 I move that this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) the Global Gag Rule (GGR), as implemented by the United States, will prove detrimental to millions of women and girls around the world;

(b) the GGR has expanded to an unprecedented degree, applying to 15 times more funding as a consequence of its extension into all global health funding, which will result in roughly $9.5 billion dollars in global health funding being affected;

(c) the GGR will result in the targeting of some of the most effective health organisations in the world, operating in 60 low and middle income countries;

(d) a study by researchers at Stanford University found that after the GGR came into effect in 2001, the abortion rate increased sharply in sub-Saharan African countries that had been dependent on such funding;

(e) the funding cuts will likely prevent many global health organisations from offering HIV prevention and treatment services, maternal health care and even Zika virus prevention; and

(f) it is possible that as many as 21,700 maternal deaths could occur in the next four years as a consequence of this executive order, which is in addition to 6.5 million unintended pregnancies and 2.1 million unsafe abortions from 2017 to 2020, according to Marie Stopes International;

(2) recognises that:

(a) when Labor was in government, overseas development assistance increased from 0.28 per cent of Gross National Income in 2007-08 to 0.37 per cent in 2013-14, and was on track to reach 0.50 per cent in 2017-18; and

(b) under the Coalition, development assistance is now just 0.23 per cent of national income, the lowest level since comparable records began in the 1970s, and well below the OECD average of 0.30 per cent; and

(3) calls on the Australian Government to join the Dutch, Belgian, Swedish and Canadian governments in filling the gap in development assistance funding left by the United States Government's imposition of the GGR.

Madagascar is not a country that gets many speaking minutes devoted to it in this House, and it is unlikely many of the women in Madagascar remember when Donald Trump described himself as very much pro-choice.

I do.

It is also unlikely that many of the women in Madagascar gave much attention to the photo of President Trump, flanked by White House aides, signing his global gag rule.

But women and girls, in Madagascar and around the world, will suffer mightily from its implementation.

Previous versions of the rule prohibited non-government organisations that receive US funding for family planning from having any involvement with abortion. The rule meant that an organisation could not even use its own money—not only in providing abortions but also for a physician to counsel a patient as to the best course of care or referring a patient to another source of treatment. It meant that patients would not have condoms to reduce HIV transmission.

President Trump's version of the global gag rule extends it to all global health funding for any aid program that was linked in any way to abortion funding, not just family planning.

It now applies to 15 times more funding, which will result in roughly $9.5 billion dollars in global health funding being affected.

Lalaina Razafinirinasoa, the country director of Marie Stopes Madagascar, has said that her organisation provides family planning services to approximately 800,000 women and men and is the largest provider of family planning services in Madagascar.

In 2015, Marie Stopes Madagascar received US$3.7 million from USAID and, in 2016, they received US$3.5 million. Half of Marie Stopes Madagascar's service delivery methods are funded by USAID—the mobile clinic working in outreach areas for 400,000 people; and the voucher program for around 35,000 young people and poor women a year.

According to Ms Razafinirinasoa, all of the funding Marie Stopes Madagascar receives from the US government will be lost, starting in October. This is because the global mission of Marie Stopes is to give women the right to have children by choice, not by chance. Even though Marie Stopes Madagascar provides birth control, not abortion, it is guided by this broader mission and is caught by President Trump's global gag rule.

According to Marie Stopes Madagascar, in 2016 it helped avoid approximately 165,000 unwanted births. If it had kept its funding until 2020, it could have prevented over one million unintended pregnancies, more than 2,000 maternal deaths and approximately 340,000 abortions. They estimate the savings to the Madagascan government would be around 39 million pounds in direct healthcare costs over that period.

And this is just one organisation, in one country.

The healthcare of women and girls will be affected in at least 60 low- and middle-income countries.

As my colleague, Senator Claire Moore pointed out in the other place, the International Planned Parenthood Federation will not sign any declaration that limits the numbers of services and types of services that they provide for women and families across the world.

They will not sign, so they will lose more than $100 million in US government funding during this term. 

In practical terms the effect of the Global Gag Rule could lead to as many as 21,700 more maternal deaths over the next four years, in addition to 6½ million unintended pregnancies and 2.1 million unsafe abortions from 2017 to 2020.

A study by researchers at Stanford University found that, after the Global Gag Rule came into effect in 2001, the abortion rate increased sharply in sub-Saharan African countries that had been dependent on such funding.

That is right—the past implementation of the Global Gag Rule has led to an increase in the abortion rate. The funding cuts will likely prevent many global health organisations from offering HIV prevention and treatment services, maternal health care and even Zika virus prevention. Treatment will not be provided to millions of people with sexually transmitted diseases, including treatments that would prevent the transmission of HIV to infants.

A number of countries refuse to sit back—the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Canada have all increased their contributions to an international pool aimed at ensuring reproductive health services across the developing world are maintained.

In Australia we have cut aid to the lowest level since comparable records began in the 1970s. We need to step up and fill this gap, and we need to do so with increased funding rather than simply the reannouncement of previous funding.

Australia needs to do its part where the United States has failed.


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