Life after the Mexico City policy: Countries scramble to fund women’s NGOs

Sweden donated $21 million to funding women's health and reproductive services internationally. / Photo courtesy (cc) Maja Svensson

Sweden donated $21 million to funding women’s health and reproductive services internationally. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2012 Maja Svensson

A little over a month ago, I wrote about President Donald J. Trump signing an executive order Jan. 23 that cut off U.S. federal funding to nongovernmental organizations that perform abortion services abroad or even provide information about abortions—a move that mainly disadvantages the most vulnerable women in developing countries.

The rule has been enacted by every Republican president and repealed by every succeeding Democrat since Ronald Reagan first implemented it in 1984. But now, we’re beginning to see the most recent effects of that executive order, known as the Mexico City policy, or the “global gag rule” by its opponents. Over the next four years, the Mexico City policy is expected to cause a loss of $600 million in NGO funding.

In response to this daunting gap, four countries—Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden—hastily organized “She Decides,” an international conference in Brussels on Thursday to raise funds for international women’s health organizations. The conference, which was attended by representatives from 45 governments, raised $190 million—with Sweden and Finland pledging the most at $21 million each.

While Trump cannot be faulted for crafting the Mexico City policy, it is disheartening nonetheless to see another Republican president enact the measure. Above all else, safe abortions are life-saving, with 68,000 women dying worldwide each year from abortions that are not performed by medical professionals. By stripping funding from organizations that provide safe abortions, that number can only go up.

What’s even more frustrating, however, is that even organizations that provide information on abortions are being punished. The world has already suffered for too long from a culture of silence surrounding safe abortion and reproductive options.

The international community’s quick effort to replace those funds was the small silver lining in all of this—with 45 countries reaffirming their commitment to women’s health and choices. Still, the funds only make up 1/3 of what will be lost thanks to the Mexico City policy. We still have a long way to go.

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