Smith waits on abortion fund stance

18 Jun 2008

By The Record

By Paul Gray
Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith has refused to comment on a move to allow Australian foreign aid to be spent on promoting abortions in the Third World.

A Ministerial spokesman confirmed to The Record, in response to a request for Mr Smith to comment on the issue, that the Minister “has not expressed a view on this matter and will await the decision of Caucus in due course.”
The new Foreign Affairs Minister kept to his neutral position on the abortion-aid issue as abortion began to emerge as a front-page news topic once more.
Legislation is expected soon in the state parliament of Victoria after the tabling of a final report on the law of abortion.
The report canvasses options for the decriminalization of abortion in the state.
In an explanatory note, the Law Reform Commission of Victoria says the final report is exclusively about decriminalisation options and not about ethics.
“We have not been asked to address the question of whether decriminalization is an appropriate policy. Nor have we been asked to make judgments about the ethical and philosophical arguments concerning abortion,” the Law Reform Commission says.
The Victorian Government, headed by Labor Premier John Brumby, is expected to introduce legislation proposing some form of decriminalisation in the wake of the report.
Meanwhile pro-abortion lobbyists have achieved a victory since the Rudd Government decided it would consider the implications of a May 2007 parliamentary report recommending removal of Australia’s ban on aid funding for abortion training or services.
The Howard Government had not acted on the report.
In an ironic twist, it is the “National Security Committee” of the Labor Party federal caucus which has been given the task of initiating change in the abortion policy.
The Government explains that all matters relating to foreign affairs and trade, including foreign aid, come under the auspices of the Caucus National Security Committee. Current family planning guidelines for the Australian government overseas aid program state that funds “are not available for activities that involve abortion training or services, or research trials or activities which directly involve abortion drugs.”
Opposition to this restriction found expression in the 2007 report of a parliamentary group which inquired into “sexual and reproductive health” in relation to overseas development goals.
Lately the possibility of a change in Australian policy has begun receiving international attention with Catholic News Service in the United States reporting the possibility of Australia lifting restrictions on abortion-related aid.
The focus of the CNS report was a question from Queensland National Senator Ron Boswell to government officials on whether any countries receiving aid from Australia had yet requested funding for services related to abortion.
According to Senator Boswell, the Government officials “responded that they were not aware of any particular requests to fund abortion related activities.”
The Queensland Senator commented: “Why is the Rudd Government even considering funding abortion in its overseas aid programs when Australia has never done so in the past and has not been approached by other countries to do so?”
An implication of Senator’s Boswell’s question – and of the answer it received – is that the issue of aid funding for abortion is one that has been constructed by Australian activists with an ideological commitment to promoting abortion in the Third World.
However, there is a global dimension to the issue.
The United States Government also has a policy of opposing aid funding for abortions, and this policy has been targeted by pro-abortion rights groups overseas.
The American policy was introduced under President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, and later overturned by the Clinton Administration.
It was reintroduced by President George W. Bush.
As abortion is an issue of worldwide concern, it is now being fought out at all levels of the human community: global, national and local.


Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is shown around the Sala Regia at the Apostolic Palace, which houses the Offices of the Secretariat of State and the Papal Apartments in the Vatican, by Monsignor Joseph Murphy of the Vatican Secretariat of State. Mr Smith visited the Vatican on June 3 and attended Mass in St Peter’s Basilica the following morning.