The Netherlands Is Stepping In To Counteract Trump's Global Gag Rule

The resistance is global.

On Monday, President Donald Trump got right down to business. One of his first executive orders was to reinstate the "global gag rule" barring U.S. funds from going to international aid organizations both that provide abortion services out of their own pocket and that give women information about abortion. The executive order also significantly restricts access to contraceptives and condoms.

The move drew criticism from international women's rights organizations who say that it will have a devastating impact on the health of girls and women all over the world, particularly in impoverished developing countries. The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, was first implemented by Ronald Reagan, and has since vacillated between Democratic and Republican presidents. Bill Clinton immediately repealed it when he entered office only to have George W. Bush reinstate it when he was president. President Obama similarly repealed it when he took office in 2009.

Advocates and international aid groups are reeling, but the Netherlands has already set into motion a plan that would plug the gaping hole left by the global gag rule. The Dutch government is setting up an overseas fund that will allow women in developing countries to gain access to contraceptives, abortion, and education. 

Announced by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen, the fund will be supported by governments, businesses, and social organizations to "compensate this financial setback as much as possible." She cautioned in a statement that Trump's executive order will have significant consequences: 

First of all, for all those women who have to make, if they want to have a child, a choice, but also for their husbands and children and society as a whole. Banning abortion does not lead to fewer abortions. It leads to more irresponsible practices in back rooms and more maternal deaths. 

Ploumen's warning that it will lead to more abortions is one echoed by women's rights advocates and groups across the world. Marjorie Newman-Williams, the director of Marie Stopes International, a global reproductive care organization, said in a press release that reimplementing the global gag rule will not only fail to prevent abortions, but in fact increase abortions and make them more dangerous. 

"Attempts to stop abortion through restrictive laws — or by withholding family planning aid — will never work, because they do not eliminate women's need for abortion," Newman-Williams said. "This policy only exacerbates the already significant challenge of ensuring that people in the developing world who want to time and space their children can obtain the contraception they need to do so."

Cover image via Rena Schild / Shutterstock.

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