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This International Women's Day must herald better maternal health in our region

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young hopes that the rights and health of
women overseas will soon be better protected as Australia celebrates
International Women's Day today.

The Greens have called on Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to use his
ministerial discretion to lift restrictions on AusAID funding for
certain family planning practices, just as the United States' similar
'global gag rule' was lifted by President Obama during his first week in

"Minister Smith has had ample time to find the will to allow Australia's
foreign aid to flow fairly to programs that will undoubtedly save
women's lives," said Senator Hanson-Young.

"It is estimated that more than 34,000 mothers die in our region each
year, due to the lack of maternal health support available, and more
than 13 per cent of all maternal deaths directly result from unsafe

"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.

"Australia can play a positive role in turning around these alarming

"What better day than International Women's Day for Minister Smith to
finally stand up for women's health and rights by introducing fairer
guidelines for the distribution of Australian aid?"

The Greens announced last week that they would move an amendment to
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2008-2009 to make the restrictions unlawful
if Minister Smith did not exercise his ministerial discretion by the
next parliamentary sitting period.

"Minister Smith could avoid this embarrassment by changing these
backward guidelines today with a stroke of his pen," said Senator

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