April 13, 2017; Devex
When President Trump took office in January, one his first actions was to reinstate the “global gag rule,” which prevents foreign organizations from receiving U.S. federal funding for so much as talking about abortion. Specifically, the rule says organizations should “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” The rule itself is fraught with issues (as spelled out by NPQ), with a history going back to the Reagan administration. Every time the office of the presidency switches from Republican to Democrat, the rule goes from rescinded to reinstated and back again. Although, in accordance with Trump’s “bigger is better” style, his iteration of the global gag rule applies to all U.S. global health assistance.
A fund created earlier this year, She Decides, promises to be a more stable source of funding for abortion and reproductive rights around the world. Forming in response to Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule, the She Decides fund has an annual goal of raising $600 million, the estimated minimum amount of US Agency for International Development (USAID) funding that will be cut as a result of the rule. It’s a lofty goal, but in a few short months, She Decides has already passed the halfway point. There is clearly much more work ahead, however, as reproductive health organizations estimate the cuts could be as high as $9.5 billion.
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Lilianne Ploumen, the current Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and the founder of She Decides, reports that She Decides has been able to generate support from a number of countries, including Sweden, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Australia, and Luxembourg. Further support has come from foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and private individual gifts. Most recently, Slovenia and Iceland have joined the movement, pledging an additional $190 million to the fund. Given European support to date for She Decides, Ploumen believes that the continent will be “a beacon of stability” for women’s health issues in the near future.
The formation of She Decides and the success it has seen thus far goes to show not only how imperative reproductive health services are, but also that other developed nations will not sit idly by as the current administration uses ideology in favor of empirical research to dictate what health services are available in other nations.—Sheela Nimishakavi