International campaign raises more than $300m for women's sexual health programmes in developing countries

The campaign was launched in opposition to Donald Trump's global gag rule on abortions

Emily Shugerman
New York
Friday 28 July 2017 18:54 BST
Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, speaks during a Global Gender Forum on Women's Empowerment and Sexual Health
Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, speaks during a Global Gender Forum on Women's Empowerment and Sexual Health (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

A campaign to fund international women’s health services in opposition to Donald Trump has raised more than $305m, the Dutch government reports.

Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, started the “She Decides” campaign to help provide access to birth control, abortion and women's sexual health programmes in developing countries.

The campaign was launched in January – shortly after Mr Trump banned all aid from the US government to organisations that provide abortions.

The first “She Decides” conference in March attracted 450 participants from around the world, including politicians, youth leaders, and representatives from various UN agencies and NGOs. The conference raised more than $200m to kick-start the effort.

Since then, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have all pledged new funding. Rwanda, Chad, South Africa, South Korea, Senegal, Nigeria and Mozambique have signed onto the initiative as "friends".

Announcing the latest fundraising numbers on Friday, Ms Ploumen called it "very good news for millions of women and girls in developing countries”.

The donations, she added, "show again that the international community will not abandon women in developing countries and will guarantee their basic right to family planning”.

The Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule,” bans the US government from funding international organisations that so much as provide information on abortions. The policy was first enacted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, and has been re-authorised by every Republican President since – including Mr Trump.

Critics of the rule say it penalises organisations that provide life-saving women’s health services, such as HIV and cancer prevention. Some also claim the policy is unnecessary, as US law already bars government money from funding abortion directly.

Under President George W Bush, clinics in 20 developing countries lost US-donated contraceptives, and many were forced to reduce services or even shut down, according to Engender Health.

Mr Trump, however, has chosen to expand the rule’s reach, asking his Secretary of State to identify an even broader range of programmes that could fall under the ban. The policy will apply to an estimated $8.8bn in international aid, compared to $600m in previous administrations.

Ms Ploumen decried the decision as “highly counterproductive”.

“Slashing these services will actually increase the number of unsafe abortions,” she said. “This will have catastrophic consequences, as similar measures in the past have shown all too clearly.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in