A Dutch minister has announced funding to oppose Donald Trump’s anti-abortion order, saying “we must not let that happen”.
Surrounded by men in the Oval Office, Trump signed a presidential memorandum that reinstates the Global Gag Rule or Mexico City Policy, forbidding US aid to go to international health organisations that counsel women on abortions.
The move will end the US Government spending about $600 million a year on international assistance for family planning and reproductive health.
Last year, American money helped 27 million women access contraceptives, preventing two million unsafe abortions and six million unwanted pregnancies, according to analysis by the Guttmacher Institute.
In response to Trump’s announcement, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, pledged to launch a new fund for groups set to lose money thanks to the Global Gag Rule.
She said: “Banning abortions does not result in fewer abortions. It leads to more irresponsible practices in back rooms and more maternal deaths. We must not let this happen.”
She added: “We need to compensate for this financial blow as much as possible, with a broad-based fund - which governments, businesses and civil society organisations can donate to - so that women can remain in control of their own bodies.”
The end of US money to help women in developing countries be counselled on abortion could have deadly consequences, according to the World Health Organisation.
It estimates that more than 21 million women a year have unsafe abortions in the developing world, which accounts for about 13% of all maternal deaths.
Marie Stopes, which provides contraception and abortion services in 37 countries, said the Global Gag Rule would prevent them reaching 1.5 million women a year and could kill thousands of women.
Marjorie Newman-Williams, director of Marie Stopes International’s international operations, said: “All the medical evidence, as well as everything we know from our daily interactions with women, is unequivocal: if you take safe abortion services out of the reproductive healthcare package, it exposes women to risk.
“Every year, 21.6 million women are so desperate to end their pregnancy they put their lives on the line by risking an unsafe abortion.
“Thousands of them die and millions more are left with life altering injuries. Agreeing to the Mexico City Policy would mean accepting their fate and turning our backs on the very women who need us most.”
She continued: “Attempts to stop abortion through restrictive laws - or by withholding family planning aid - will never work, because they do not eliminate women’s need for abortion.
“This policy only exacerbates the already significant challenge of ensuring that people in the developing world who want to time and space their children can obtain the contraception they need to do so.
“It denies people the right to make choices that could improve their living conditions, from the girl who could have avoided an unwanted pregnancy and continued her education, to the mother of five who could have averted the life-threatening risk of an unsafe abortion.
“The impact of the Mexico City Policy will be catastrophic and it is women in developing countries who will pay the price.”