Foreign Minister Julie Bishop failed women when she pledged a further $9.5 million in Australian taxpayer dollars to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) last week via its SPRINT program (Sexual and Reproductive Health Program in Crisis and Post Crisis Situations). This brings Australia’s total contribution to the program to $26.3 million since 2007.
It is a decision that may have been lost amidst refugee swaps and photo-ops with high profile American officials in Washington over the past few days, but it is one that women – in both Australia and abroad – should not be so quick to forgive or forget.
The decision came after Labor Senator Lisa Singh called on Ms Bishop to support Holland and Belgium in countering Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy (MCP). The MCP, also known as the Global Gag Rule by its opponents, prohibits U.S. foreign aid money from going to international NGOs that perform or promote abortions as a method of family planning.
Ms Singh called the MCP “an attack on women everywhere” that “demeans women” and said she had written to Ms Bishop “to call on our government to lend our support to women and girls around the world affected by this global gag rule.”
I have disputed misguided claims like Ms Singh’s elsewhere. Despite her interest in supporting women in need, committing a further $9.5 million to the international abortion giant certainly does women no favours. Such a move is in fact gravely harmful to women and a missed opportunity to provide them with real support.
First and foremost, IPPF is an organisation that has been mired in scandal for years. Its U.S. affiliate has been implicated in everything from trafficking aborted baby parts behind women’s backs, to infanticide, ignoring child sexual abuse, facilitating sex trafficking and sex selective abortions, manipulating women to have abortions, and running clinics where women are at risk of infection and disease from unsanitary conditions, have been rendered infertile, maimed and died from botched abortions.
At the international level, IPPF has deep roots in the population control movement, including alleged involvement in coerced and sex selective abortions in developing countries, like China and India.
So why would we as a nation continue to pour millions of dollars into an organisation that has displayed such a flagrant disregard for the rights and welfare of women?
Why too are we giving $9.5 million to “strengthen sexual and reproductive health, rights and support during humanitarian crises” in the Indo-Pacific region, when surely what women need most when faced with disaster is access to emergency food, shelter and health care for themselves and their families?
Johanna Wicks, head of IPPF’s Australian office, said in an interview on the subject that, “What we find is that in emergencies it is natural to turn to the person that you love and to seek comfort. What we find is that if women are using contraception they can no longer access it, it might have disappeared in the flood or cyclone, and we see a lot of women who are extremely keen to access these services.”
The idea that impoverished women who have just experienced something as devastating as a flood, fire or earthquake would be preoccupied with having sex and preventing or terminating pregnancy is, to use Senator Singh’s words “demeaning”. What is more likely in times of crisis is that such women are sexually exploited and tragically lose one or more of their children in the disaster. Abortion only piles trauma upon trauma for these women.
Moreover, the women in the developing world who IPPF so nobly claims to be helping, often do not want what they see as an aggressive and colonial imposition of abortion and contraception on their countries, at odds with their cultural beliefs and practices.
The Foreign Minister’s media release notes that in addition to “family planning services”, IPPF’s SPRINT program provides safer birthing environments, HIV protection and treatment, protection against sexual violence and assistance to rape survivors in crisis-affected places.
However, if its U.S. affiliate is anything to go by, any services IPPF claims to provide other than abortion and contraception are either very much secondary or non-existent. For example, claims that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms and prenatal care in the U.S. turned out to be a myth. Plus, the fact that Australia’s additional $9.5 million contribution appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to the MCP would suggest abortion is a large component of the program.
Would we not serve women better by providing them with real aid and support, through trusted organisations that actually help women?
Instead of pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into a politicised and hyper-sexualised international aid program that women in disaster zones don’t need, what about supporting our own women here in Australia? We have increasing numbers of underage girls having sex, women being subject to sexual violence, a dire need to do more for women suffering from miscarriage and stillbirth, and a colossal gap in funding for crisis pregnancy centres – often the only port of call for women who are struggling before and after an abortion.
When it comes to sexual and reproductive health we need to clean up our own backyard rather than meddling in the affairs of women in developing countries, who do not need, and who likely do not want, the kind of “support” IPPF is offering.