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Trump’s ‘Global Gag Rule’ : Dutch plan to set up an international safe abortion fund
As 20 countries indicate support for fund to plug $600m funding gap
About 20 countries have indicated support for the Netherlands’ plan to set up an international safe abortion fund to plug a $600m funding gap caused by Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the “global gag rule”, the Dutch international development minister, Lilianne Ploumen, said on Wednesday.
Ploumen took soundings from a number of her colleagues around the world on Tuesday evening after the Netherlands said it would act to mitigate the impact on hundreds of charities around the world.
The “global gag rule”, also known as the Mexico City policy, was reimposed by Trump on Monday and bans US federal funding for NGOs in foreign countries that provide abortion services or abortion advocacy.
‘We’re in talks with 15 to 20 countries and we’ve also spoken to foundations,” Ploumen told the Guardian. “As well as contacting a number of European countries that we work with on these issues, we’re also in touch with countries in South America and Africa, as well as the foundations. It’s important to have the broadest possible support for the fund.”
Ploumen did not identify which countries had been approached or how much money the Dutch government might commit to the scheme. She said the aim would be to continue support for existing programmes being run by organisations such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), the International Planned Parenting Federation and Marie Stopes International.
“These are successful and effective programmes: direct support, distributing condoms, making sure women are accompanied at the birth, and making sure abortion is safe if they have no other choice,” she said.
Ploumen admitted that replacing the $600m that Trump has pulled from family planning services was a tall order, but added: ‘You should never compromise on your aims from the outset. Six hundred million dollars is a very ambitious target but we’re committed to it.’
She hopes to be in a position to start arranging funding within the next two to three weeks. “We need a bit of time for everyone to get organised, but I don’t want it to take six months. The funding is being stopped immediately, so the sooner the organisations have the security of knowing that their programmes can continue, the better,” she said.
The move sets the Dutch government squarely against the Trump administration and could cause tensions between Europe and the United States, but Ploumen said it was the Netherlands’ right to take an independent stance. “I’m pro-choice and pro-women’s rights. It’s important to stand your ground,” she said. “We respect the decisions of a democratically elected president, but we’re democratically elected too and we can make different decisions.
“This is also about millions of women and girls who often have no voice or live in countries where democracy is less deeply rooted, and when they speak up they need our support.”
Dutch voters are due to elect a new parliament in seven weeks’ time, which will almost certainly trigger a change of government, but Ploumen is confident that support for the plan will continue. “The Netherlands has a long tradition of standing up for sexual and reproductive rights. I don’t see that being a problem,” she said.