Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has called on the Rudd Government to follow the lead of President Obama and abolish the family planning guidelines that effectively ban the use of aid funding for some contraceptives and for abortion advice and services.
The AusAid guidelines are a product of former Senator Brian Harradine's conservative hold of balance of power in the Senate years ago.
"The Greens have long opposed these cruel and archaic restrictions and have been active participants in the campaign to have them removed," said Senator Hanson-Young
"It is ridiculous that non-government organisations working outside of Australia are not permitted to use their funding for certain contraceptives or family planning services, simply because of a narrow ideology that once held sway.
"Australia is now the only country that applies harsh restrictions on our aid programme that limits its ability to be effective, despite the support from all sides of politics to have these restrictions removed.
Last year, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, began an internal review of AusAID's family planning guidelines, establishing a subcommittee of Labor MPs to examine the issue, and determine whether there is evidence to support lifting the ban.
"It is estimated that more than 34,000 mothers alone, die in our region each year, due to the lack of maternal health supports available," she said.
"Mothers play an absolutely crucial role in developing communities, which is why improving both maternal and child health is a Millennium Development Goal in its own right, yet current statistics show that more than half of the 29 developing countries are not on track to achieve either goal.
"With more than 13 percent of all maternal deaths the direct result of unsafe abortions, it is time for the Rudd Government to stand up for women's rights and immediately abolish the family planning guidelines that prevent Australian aid money being spent on contraception, and family planning advice.
Media contact: Emily Johnson on 0427 604 760