The Dutch government announced Saturday that it was launching a new international fund supporting abortion, sex education, and birth control for women after President Donald Trump reinstituted the “global gag rule,” cutting some $600 million in international funds for any group which provides or even mentions abortion.
According to a report from the Toronto Star, the Netherlands launched the fund — called “She Decides – Global Fundraising Initiative” — with a website and a $10 million euro ($10.7 million USD) initial contribution. The fund is intended to ensure access to birth control, abortion, and sex education for women in developing nations.
“[The fund will] prevent women and girls being abandoned,” said Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Co-operation, adding that since launching the website she had received thousands of reactions, most of them positive. Ploumen also said that Trump’s executive order would create a massive gap in global funding for women’s sexual and reproductive care and education, which could only be made up by a massive effort from world governments, organizations, and private donors.
“They, too, must be able to decide for themselves if they want children, with whom, and when.
“I’m confident we can go a long way so that essential services, not just for women, but for the whole of society, can be maintained.”
Meanwhile, according to The Globe And Mail, Canada is considering joining the fund. International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said that Canada already has plans to increase their funding for global sexual and reproduction rights, and that they may do so through the She Decides fund.
“We will definitely increase the proportion of our international assistance budget to sexual and reproductive health rights and the full range of services.”
Ms. Bibeau spoke with Ms. Ploumen about the fund, emphasizing Canada’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health, and told The Globe And Mail that Canada would be making a contribution one way or another.
“Whether we go through the fund or we go directly with one or the other partners, the way is not really the issue,” and added that the Trudeau government had made the decision to increase funding well before Trump signed his executive order.
Which is not to say that the signing of the global gag rule was unpredictable. Properly known as the “Mexico City Policy” it was first signed in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, the order has see-sawed back and forth; it has typically become one of the first actions of the new president to rescind or reinstate it, depending on party. The official text states that foreign non-governmental organizations must certify that they will “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations” before they are eligible for U.S. funding.
Ploumen said that up to 20 countries have shown support for the Dutch plan to set up the She Decides fund, and that the Dutch government is considering a crowdfunding campaign as well.
Executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Sandeep Prasad, encouraged the Canadian government to donate to the fund sooner than later, suggesting that the Liberal government had only taken “baby steps” toward its stated commitment to worldwide reproductive rights and healthcare for women.
“We need to see countries like Canada stepping up to a leadership role. The need has deepened significantly with Trump’s decision to reinstate the global gag rule.”
Ms. Bibeau said that the Canadian government would be launching a new initiative in the coming weeks, prior to the federal budget, focused on what she called “women’s empowerment.” One aspect of that, she confirmed, would be related to sexual and reproductive rights.
In the meantime, She Decides is accepting independent contributions through the Rutgers Foundation, an independent foundation in the Netherlands supporting sexual and reproductive rights, which will be managing the She Decides fund.
[Featured Image by Kevin Dietsch – Pool/Getty Images]