Holland and family planning

03/02/2017

On his first Monday in office, President Trump reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy, blocking U.S. federal funds for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services. The policy was implemented in 1984 by Ronald Reagan at a United Nations population conference in Mexico City, hence the name. It was repealed by Bill Clinton, reinstated by George W. Bush and repealed again by Obama. (You may remember that Trump was pro-choice until it was politically valuable to be for compulsory pregnancy.)

But 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 H.I.V. prevention and treatment, immunization, maternal health care, Zika virus prevention and more will 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.  

But organizations that provide family planning and safe abortion care, such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, are refusing to 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, announced it is putting 10 million euros into an international fund, called “She Decides,” to finance access to birth control, abortion and sex education for women in developing nations. 

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. 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,” she said. 

At the Women’s March in San Francisco, there were many striking and meaningful signs. I was struck by the power of the two words Ploumen selected for her initiative: “she decides.” If you are burning with indignation at Trump’s actions against women’s health, you can donate to  shedecides.com. Any amount helps. It will be multiplied by the rest of us.

In the week following the announcement of the “She Decides” initiative, 13 more countries stated their interest in supporting the fund. Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and Finland have all formally confirmed their support, and others are likely to on March 2, during an international conference for the fund hosted in Belgium. Private donors have given more than 140,000 euros as of Feb. 3. You can be one of them; go to shedecides.com.

 

Sadja Greenwood is a Bolinas resident and a retired physician formerly active at the University of California, San Francisco.