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Dutch Government Starts Crowdfunding Effort to Protect Women's Rights

  • Marthe van der Wolf

FILE - Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen attends a meeting of EU trade ministers at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on Nov. 11, 2016.

“She Decides” is a global fundraising initiative launched by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation last Saturday. The campaign is trying to raise money to offer family planning services to women in developing countries.

The crowdfunding effort was established in response to a decree signed last week by U.S. President Donald Trump. His order, also known as the Mexico City policy, prohibits federal funding to groups and organizations that support abortions.

Dutch Minister Lilianne Ploumen said in a video message she received an overwhelming amount of supporting messages from around the world after she voiced her plan to set up an international safe abortion fund.

“We want to raise funds to make sure women and girls all over the world have access to family planning services, " she said, "Please join us, spread the word. It is time that she decides.”

The first $10 million donation came from the Dutch government.

Multinational effort

Ploumen is now actively lobbying other governments and organizations to close the $600 million funding gap.

Canada is said to be enthusiastic about the Dutch initiative and so is Belgium.

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander de Croo announced he will host an international conference this spring in Brussels. The aim is to bring together “like-minded countries and organizations” when it comes to the topic of women’s rights and family planning. De Croo said in a statement that this is an issue of human rights.

“This White House decision has a direct impact on the lives of millions of girls and women in developing countries," he said. "Information on family planning and the possibility of abortion are of great importance for the development of girls and women.”

Participants attend the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington.
Participants attend the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington.




The Belgian ministry did not want to say yet which countries, institutions and companies are attending, but said the responses have been positive.

One of the affected organizations will be Marie Stopes International, which provides contraception and abortion services to women in 37 countries. Last year it received about $30 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development, for expanding access to contraception in developing countries.

Will Harris of Marie Stopes International said the decree leaves the organization with a 17 percent budget cut for 2017.

“In 2001, the last time the Mexico City Policy was re-enacted, we saw a number of European governments step up their funding commitments," said Harris. "However, with aid budgets today under unprecedented pressure from the challenges of the 21st century, we can take nothing for granted.”

The group believes without alternative funding, the impact of the decree between 2017 and 2020 will be 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths.

People hold candles as they protest in solidarity with the Women's March in Washington at the same time as the U.S. Presidential inauguration, in Brussels on Jan. 20, 2017.
People hold candles as they protest in solidarity with the Women's March in Washington at the same time as the U.S. Presidential inauguration, in Brussels on Jan. 20, 2017.

Many American Republican politicians oppose abortions, while this is not as much of a public debate in most European countries. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation says the initiative is not against President Trump or the United States, but is focusing on the millions of women they believe will not have access to information, contraceptives and abortions.

Former President Ronald Reagan imposed the Mexico City policy in 1984. It was repealed by President Bill Clinton, re-imposed by President George W. Bush and repealed again by President Barack Obama.

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