Sunday, February 5, 2017

She Decides – How Holland is Saving Family Planning

On his first Monday in office, President Trump reinstated the ‘Mexico City policy’ that blocks US federal funds for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services.  This policy was implemented in 1984 by Ronald Reagan at a UN population conference in Mexico City.  Hence the name – the Mexico City policy.  It was repealed by Bill Clinton, reinstated by George W. Bush, and repealed by Obama.  (You may remember that Trump was prochoice until it was politically valuable to be for compulsory pregnancy.  Reagan signed the bill allowing therapeutic abortion in California.)

Trump did more than just reinstate the policy, he expanded it to apply to all global health funding, not just to family planning.   Organizations helping with HIV prevention and treatment, immunization, maternal health care, Zika virus prevention et al. will also be affected.  According to Population Action International, a global family planning advocacy organization, the gag rule will apply to $9.5 billion in global health funding, as opposed to $575 million in family planning funding. 

Organizations that provide family planning and safe abortion care, such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, will not sign on to the gag rule’s conditions.  They point out that the new rule will not reduce abortions, but increase the number of illegal ones, as happened in sub-Saharan Africa during George W. Bush’s time in office. 

Holland has come to the rescue.  Lilianne Ploumen, Holland’s minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, has announced that it is putting 10 million euros ($10.7 million) into an international fund it launched to finance access to birth control, abortion and sex education for women in developing nations after President Donald Trump cut U.S. funding for such services. Ploumen has launched a fund "She Decides - Global Fundraising Initiative" — with a website.
Ploumen says she has received thousands of reactions — the vast majority of them positive — after announcing the fund Tuesday.  Canada has also pledged to sign on to the funding.  In a few days, individuals from all over the world will be able to pledge support through the website– “She Decides – Global  Fundraising Initiative.  I will keep you posted on this website.  Donations will be coordinated by The Rutgers Foundation, and international NGO working on sexual and reproductive rights based in the Netherlands. 

Minister Ploumen  said the withdrawal of U.S. money will create a huge funding gap that can only be filled through a robust reaction by governments, aid organizations and private donors. The fund will "prevent women and girls being abandoned," she added. "Because they, too, must be able to decide for themselves if they want children, with whom and when."  Ploumen said much more money is needed but "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.” The website, , is open for individual donations.

At the Women’s March in San Francisco, and from reports of similar marches in Washington and throughout the world, there were many striking and meaningful posters and signs.  I am struck by the power of the two words Lilianne Ploumen selected for her new website and the generous action of the Netherlands – ‘She Decides’. 

If you are burning with indignation at Trump’s actions against women’s health or immigration policy, you can also donate to the International Planned Parenthood Federation or the ACLU.  Any amount helps.  It will be multiplied by the rest of us.

Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH   back issues on this blog

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