Justin Trudeau pledges $650 million to help plug gap left by Donald Trump's global abortion funding cuts

Family planning services are set to lose hundreds of millions of dollars after Donald Trump reinstated the anti-abortion 'global gag rule'

Niamh McIntyre
Thursday 09 March 2017 18:54 GMT
Justin Trudeau unveils $650 million plan for sexual and reproductive health programme

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to spend $650 million (£395 million) on sexual and reproductive health programmes over the next three years.

He said the support would focus on sexual education, improving reproductive health services and investing in family planning and contraceptives.

The extra funding represents a doubling of Canada’s current budget for reproductive health programmes.

Mr Trudeau’s renewed support for abortion services represents a significant break with the policy of previous governments.

His predecessor Stephen Harper explicitly refused to include funding for abortion services in his flagship maternal and child health program.

Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, welcomed the government’s decision, but said there was still far more work to do in this policy area.

“Ending the previous government's refusal to fund abortion services abroad was a strong first step, but to truly move forward on this in a sustained and systematic way, we need a Canadian global policy on sexual and reproductive rights,” he said.

However, the announcement has drawn criticism from Canada’s Conservative Party. Interim party leader Rona Ambrose took issue with funding “divisive” access to abortion.

"We’ve always taken the position that this is not just divisive, but illegal, in a lot of the countries that we give aid to," Ms Ambrose said. "Our position was always, let’s stick to things that we know will bring people together and everyone can support, which was the maternal and child health initiative."

The funding comes at a time when global reproductive health programs face losing hundreds of millions of dollars after President Trump reinstated the “global gag rule” in January.

Also known as the Mexico City Policy, it stipulates that US federal funds cannot be given to foreign Non Government Organisations that perform abortions, provide women with information about other abortion services, or lobby for abortion to be made legal or more available in their country.

The United States Agency for International Development is the largest bilateral donor to family planning programmes in the world. It spent over $600 million on them in 2016 alone.

International abortion provider Marie Stopes said in a statement that the reinstatement of the gag rule during the President’s first term could lead to 2.7 million unplanned pregnancies and 21,700 maternal deaths.

It is unclear how far the Canadian funding will go to cover the deficit.

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