Sweden vows to stop giving aid to any organisations that follow Donald Trump's anti-abortion rule

Change is likely to see charities and NGOs have to choose between US and Swedish funding

Benjamin Kentish
Thursday 13 July 2017 16:50
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Donald Trump reintroduced the 'Mexico City Policy' within days of taking office in January
Donald Trump reintroduced the 'Mexico City Policy' within days of taking office in January

Sweden has pledged to stop giving aid to any organisations that agree to abide by the anti-abortion rule which was reinstated by Donald Trump.

Known as the Mexico City Policy or the global gag rule, it forces non-government organisations to "neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations" if they want to apply for US government funds.

The US funding ban was first created in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. The policy was rescinded by the Clinton administration, before being reinstated under President George W Bush.

In 2009, Barack Obama again ended it, only for Mr Trump to reintroduce the policy within days of taking office in January.

As a result he received widespread criticism from the international community.

Now, Sweden’s development aid agency, Sida, has announced it will freeze aid to organisations that agree to Mr Trump’s demands and withhold abortion services, news website The Local, reported.

"This is about women's own right to decide when, and if, they want to have children and how many children they want”, said Sida’s director general, Carin Jämtin. “Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are a prerequisite for being able to attend school and being active on the labour market."

"We have to defend SRHR and the right to abortion for girls and women in poor countries and when the United States implements a policy that will hit the poorest countries and the most vulnerable groups – women and girls in need of care, Sida has to make sure that Swedish aid continues to go to those activities we have agreed on."

A Sida spokesperson said it was unclear at this stage how many organisations would be affected by the change.

“We are now starting a review of which of our organisations receive support and where they stand in relation to the Mexico City Policy”, they added. “Only then will we know. The only ones we know of today that have such support and have agreed to the MCP is Save the Children."

The measure is likely to force charities and non-governmental organisations to choose between US and Swedish funding.

“We are doing our best in a very difficult situation”, Ms Jamtin said. “The alternative for us would have been to do nothing and let the Trump administration's decision sail through.”

Sweden is also increasing its funding of organisations involved in promoting sexual heath, contraception, abortion and maternity care by a further 170 million kronor (£15.6m).

Representatives from the Scandinavian country are also understood to have spoken to other countries, including the UK, Netherlands and Canada, in an attempt to persuade them to adopt a similar approach.

The Netherlands has already an international fund to support abortion services hit by President Donald Trump's order to cut US foreign aid.

Announcing the "well-financed fund" to allow other governments, businesses and charities to donate in January, Dutch minister Lilianne Ploumen, said the country would do everything in its power to help women "remain in control of their own bodies".

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