Dutch Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen, who launched She Decides, speaks at conference.
Dutch Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen, who launched She Decides, speaks at conference.

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Sweden, Belgium, and Finland each promise over $20 million

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation among private donors

CNN —  

Dozens of governments and private philanthropists have pledged nearly $200 million for family planning services, after US President Donald Trump banned funding for groups linked to abortion.

Sweden, Belgium and Finland promised €20 million each (about $21 million) to the the global fundraising initiative, She Decides, launched by Dutch Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen.

The pledges came at a one-day She Decides conference in Brussels on Thursday, aimed at raising funds for aid groups whose funding is under threat. Some 50 governments, ranging from EU members states to African and Asian countries, attended the conference.

Ploumen started the initiative after Trump signed an executive order last month reinstating the “global gag rule.” The rule, formally known as the Mexico City Policy, strips international non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions of US government funding.

“I am deeply moved by the support voiced by so many countries, organizations and individuals for She Decides,” Ploumen said. “It is a very powerful signal to the rest of the world that the fundamental right of women and girls to decide over their own lives must be respected.”

Organizers hope to raise $600 million to plug the gap left by Trump’s ban on US government funding. According to the Guttmacher Institute, USAID’s yearly budget for family planning and reproductive health programs prevents around two million unsafe abortions and over 11,000 deaths.

“Today’s Brussels International Conference is a promising start for the global movement in favor of women’s rights that She Decides aims to be,” said Belgian Deputy Premier Alexander De Croo, who hosted the conference. “The broad backing of She Decides will uplift millions of girls and women fighting their rights around the world. And this is only the beginning.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promised $20 million, joining other private donors that contributed tens of millions in donations.

De Croo said that one anonymous US donor committed $50 million, bringing the total pledges up to €181 million ($190 million).

Trump’s executive order has been labeled as “catastrophic” by Marie Stopes International’s vice-president Marjorie Newman-Williams, who has said women in developing countries will “pay the price.”

According to the charity, the loss of its services during Trump’s first term could result in 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths. The organization also said it will be prevented from reaching 1.5 million women with contraception every year.

Even during the Obama years, US law banned direct funding for abortion services. But NGOs that performed the procedure were allowed to receive US funding for other programs, including those related to contraception access and post-abortion care.

And family planning is not the only thing at risk under Trump’s order – the policy has been expanded to affect “all global health assistance,” including funds to fight malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis, according to a White House statement.