February 3, 2017 (C-Fam) – The creation of the new abortion fund by the Netherlands and its partners could undermine arguments against President Donald Trump’s ban on foreign abortion funding last week. Abortion groups have been claiming that the U.S. policy would completely block women’s access to health services, including but not limited to abortion.
Almost immediately after President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy barring U.S. funds from supporting groups that promote abortion internationally, Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International, two international abortion providers, claimed that the move could cost them up to a quarter of their annual budgets.
But several Northern European countries announced the creation of special abortion funds that could more than make up for the loss of US taxpayer monies. Canada, whose government moved strongly in a pro-abortion direction with the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has hinted that it may follow suit.
When Trump signed the expanded Mexico City Policy, the Dutch government announced its intention to establish a fund for international family planning organizations “if their range of services includes abortion.” The Netherlands has committed $10 million for the fund. Belgium has also pledged support and Denmark is considering doing likewise.
In a recent interview, Canada’s international development minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, promised to “increase the proportion of our international assistance budget to sexual and reproductive health rights and the full range of services,” but did not specify if Canada would partner with the Dutch fund. Lilliane Ploumen, the Dutch foreign development minister, said it was “important to have the broadest possible support for the fund,” adding that she was “in talks with fifteen to twenty countries and we’ve also spoken to foundations.”
In the past, Canada was a world leader in providing maternal health care for women in poor countries, excluding funding for abortion. The Muskoka Initiative, launched in 2010, drew criticism from abortion supporters including then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. head of Planned Parenthood.
When then-Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, announced a further $3.5 billion dollars for the initiative in 2014, he reiterated his decision to exclude abortion, citing the controversy and lack of international consensus around that issue. Abortion supporters, including some of Canada’s major newspapers, expressed their frustration. The pressure has not abated under Prime Minister Trudeau, as abortion providers like Ipas accuse his government of not going far enough in funding overseas abortions.
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While the Mexico City Policy cuts off the United States’ funding to abortion groups, the Dutch example demonstrates that such funds could come from other sources. However, the moral and symbolic stance against abortion, exemplified by the Mexico City Policy, also has an important effect on the ground. For example, the Ethiopian country director for Ipas pointed out that it resulted in people asking, “if abortion is a positive development for Ethiopian women’s health, then why does the U.S. government not support it?”
Like the international community, U.S. citizens are deeply divided over the abortion issue at home with no consensus view in favor of funding it abroad. When Vice President Mike Pence mentioned the reinstated Mexico City Policy at last week’s annual March for Life, it drew cheers from the participants numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Similarly, despite currently having a less supportive government, pro-life Canadians have been turning out in ever-increasing numbers for their own March for Life held in May.
Reprinted with permission from C-Fam.