SYDNEY, Australia, July 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Australia will double annual funding for “family planning services” in developing countries to $50 million AUD by 2016.

The increase was announced at last week’s Family Planning Summit in London by Peter Baxter, the Director of AusAID - the government agency responsible for managing Australia’s overseas aid programme.

From Cambodia, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr affirmed the increase, saying: “Women have a basic right to reproductive health care… to decide whether, when and how many children they have.”

The increased spending will go to the United Nations Population Fund (about $70 million over four years), while an extra $10 million will go to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, in particular their SPRINT program, “to ensure people caught in disasters can gain access to reproductive health services.”

In Papua New Guinea, an extra 500 midwives will be trained in “the provision of family planning services”, and a national key-hole vasectomy centre will be built in the Eastern Highlands.

An AusAID spokesperson could not provide more detail about exactly how the increased funding would be spent.

Australia’s aid policy was adjusted in 2009 to allow for abortions by then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, after which time family planning funding increased from roughly $2 million a year to $26 million in 2010.

The new policy guidelines include “making the prevention of unwanted pregnancies the highest priority, with every attempt being made to minimise the need for abortion,” and prohibiting abortions over 20-weeks gestation.

Nonetheless, in June last year it was revealed in Senate Budget Estimates that AusAID now funds medical and surgical abortions through the IPFF in Albania, Armenia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.

AusAID also partners with Marie Stopes International in Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and East Timor, where all together the abortion giant estimates it averted around 21,000 ‘unsafe abortions’ in 2011. 

Peter Westmore, the President of the National Civic Council, said: “With regard to developing countries, we know that a large part of the funding for family planning - which is simply a euphemism for reducing the number of children that are born - goes towards abortions.”

“This funding contradicts Australia’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to respect human life. It is a repudiation of Australia’s International Human Rights commitments. And the funding will damage the countries towards which it is directed, because it will discourage the formation of families.”

The chief executive of CARE Australia, Julia Newton-Howes, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the doubling of aid was a “terrific outcome” but that the funding should be monitored to ensure it went to sexual and reproductive health programs, rather than child immunisation programs: “If a child’s mother dies in childbirth that is a worse outcome, and having ten siblings is not a good outcome, either.”

Speaking at the Family Planning Conference, Mr. Baxter estimated that one in five pregnancies in Indonesia were thought to be ‘unwanted or mistimed’, and only one in five women in Papua New Guinea used modern contraceptives. Altogether he estimated that 26 million women across south-east Asia and the Pacific wanted to use modern contraceptives but had no access to them.

In a press release published the same day, AusAID stated: “Apart from the life-saving implications of having fewer children, the economic benefits of a smaller family are also significant. Fewer mouths to feed mean incomes go further.”

During the Family Planning Summit, Australia also volunteered to be part of $US2.6 billion fundraising efforts to provide contraception to the world’s poorest women.

On Saturday, the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Robert Marles stated that the number of Ethiopian women using contraceptives doubled between 2005 and 2011, partly due to Australia’s $43-million aid contribution.

Australia is a signatory of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and a member of the Alliance for Reproductive Maternal and Newborn Health.