The Australian government announced a decision yesterday to repeal a foreign aid ban that mirrored the Global Gag rule in the US. Australia’s current policy dates to 1996 and prohibits “any overseas development funding from being used for activities which involve the termination of a pregnancy,” according to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.
In a statement, Smith said “This is a difficult issue and the Government recognizes that there are strong views, firmly held, on all sides… I have decided to change the Family Planning Guidelines for Australia’s overseas development assistance program 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.”
This move follows similar changes in US foreign policy. President Obama issued an executive order upon taking office in January that repealed the Global Gag Rule. This policy prohibited family planning programs in other nations that receive US aid from using non-US monies for abortion counseling, advocacy, and referrals. The rule was instituted by President Reagan in 1984, was repealed by President Clinton, and was reinstituted by President George W. Bush.