The sexual and reproductive health of women around the world has been dealt a blow after Donald Trump entered the White House. Among his flurry of executive actions was the reinstatement of a policy that stops international NGOs, who discuss abortion as a family-planning option, from receiving US foreign aid.
Known as the “global gag rule”, the withdrawal of US funds threatens to undermine the sexual health of women in developing countries around the world.
But a number of countries are stepping into the vacuum, including Denmark, which has donated 75 million kroner to support affected NGOs.
Denmark has also drafted a letter to the EU High Representative and the Commissioner for Development – and co-signed by eight other EU countries – to encourage a debate about how to fill the funding shortfall left by the US, which some estimates put at six billion kroner per year.
“I am worried by the possible consequences, which the reinstation of the global gag rule can have for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable women and girls,” said the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tørnæs.
“It is important that the organisations that work with family planning and sexual and reproductive rights are not forced to shut down their important work. Denmark cannot fill the gap alone. But Denmark will commit 75 million kroner, and I will – together with other like-minded European countries – with the letter encourage the EU Commission to increase their funding. In this way we can hopefully reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and deaths linked to pregnancy and birth,” Tørnæs said.
She adds that Denmark also supports the global fundraising initiative She Decides that is being spearheaded by Dutch NGO Rutgers and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It was launched after Dutch development minister Lilianne Ploumen made a public call for an international fund for safe abortion.
“We have to make up as much as possible for this financial blow, with a broad-based fund that governments, companies and civil society organisations can donate to so that women can continue to make their own decisions about their own bodies,” Ploumen said.
“[The] huge funding gap … can only be filled by a strong international response from governments, aid organisations, businesses and individuals. We cannot let women and girls down. They should have the right to decide if they want to have children, when they want to have children, and with who they want to have children.”
According to the Danish foreign ministry, there are currently more than 225 million women who want to avoid pregnancy who are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities.
Every day, more than 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. These are numbers, which lead to reflection – and action by the Danish government and like-minded partners. M