Netherlands to set up ‘safe abortion fund’ after Trump pulls support

Dutch ministry seeks international backing as US stops funds to NGOs offering abortions

Anti-Donald Trump demonstrators protest at an abortion rights rally in Chicago earlier this month. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

Anti-Donald Trump demonstrators protest at an abortion rights rally in Chicago earlier this month. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

 

The Dutch government has said it will set up and seek support around the world for an international “safe abortion fund” to offset the effect of US president Donald Trump’s decision to ban federal funding for international NGOs that offer abortions.

In one of his first reversals of Obama administration laws, Mr Trump signed an executive order reinstating what is known as the “global gag rule”, first enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984 – and since revoked and reinstated by each Democratic and Republican president in turn.

The decision means the US government will withdraw funding of about $600 million (558 million) from organisations that offer or advocate the availability of abortion, among them Marie Stopes International, which works in 37 countries.

In effect, organisations must choose between continuing to offer safe abortion access or lose the funding that allows them to provide other health services to the women they serve.

Decision disappointing

The move prompted an angry response from the Netherlands’ international development minister, Lilianne Ploumen, who said she was “deeply disappointed” by Mr Trump’s decision.

In a statement issued through the ministry of foreign affairs, Ms Ploumen warned that the withdrawal of funding would have “far-reaching consequences” for women, though it would not lead to fewer abortions.

“The fact is that banning abortion does not lead to fewer abortions,” she said. “Instead, it leads to more irresponsible backstreet practices – and a higher death rate among mothers.

“Last year alone,” Ms Ploumen added, “Dutch support for women’s organisations helped to prevent an estimated six million unwanted pregnancies and half a million abortions. This decision by the US threatens to undermine those results. We cannot let that happen.”

The US is the largest single contributor to projects promoting global health, channelling nearly $3 billion (€2.8 billion) a year through the US Agency for International Development alone, with additional funding from the state department and the Peace Corps.

Despite that crucial funding, the International Planned Parenthood Federation said it would not be constrained by Mr Trump’s decision, even though it stands to lose $100 million a year – none of which, a spokeswoman said, is spent on abortion services.

Stopes estimates

Marie Stopes International said it believed the new law would result in 6.5 million unwanted pregnancies, 2.2 million unsafe abortions, and the deaths of 21,700 young mothers during the four years of Mr Trump’s term.

The Dutch government has not said how much money it will commit to the new fund, but Ms Ploumen said the aim should be “to compensate for this financial blow as far as possible”.

As part of an initial fundraising drive, she said she would immediately contact EU ministers and governments in Latin America to discuss the establishment of the fund.