Friday, March 10, 2017

Pro-life charity welcomes UK decision not to pledge further money to 'global abortion fund'

A leading pro-life charity has welcomed the UK’s decision not to pledge further funds for family planning schemes in developing countries to plug a gap left by Donald Trump’s ban on US funding to groups linked to abortion.

Representatives from over 45 governments attended a hastily convened international conference, She Decides, in Brussels on 2 March. 

The conference’s organisers were hoping to raise $600 million in order to compensate for the reinstated ‘global gag rule’, which bans US funding for NGOs that provide abortion or information on the procedure to women in developing countries.

Belgium's minister for foreign trade and development, Alexander De Croo, told reporters on 2 March that the conference "will join forces and rally support for all these efforts that make sexual and reproductive health and rights a reality.”

Minister of State for the Department of International Development (DFID), Rory Stewart, attended on behalf of the UK.

Speaking at the conference, Stewart said that the UK is currently spending £200 million on family planning overseas, up from £90 million in 2010. 

A spokesperson for DFID has since confirmed he was reiterating an historic commitment and has not pledged new funds to the She Decides fund.

"We are obviously deeply disappointed that such vast funds are already being spent on overseas abortion and family planning, but relieved to learn that the Government have resisted pressure from the Dutch government to pour further millions of pounds into this new abortion fund, said Anne Scanlon, Education Director at pro-life Non-Governmental Organisation, Life.

Sweden’s deputy Prime Minister, Isabella Lövin, told the Guardian that the She Decides conference was not in opposition to the American administration, but was a statement of support for women’s rights.

“We are expressing our strong support for women’s rights, for the progress that has been made. Access to contraceptives and sexual reproduction is a vehicle for development and the eradication of poverty.”

At the close of the one-day conference, early reports are of pledges amounting to around £155 million, with Sweden and Finland pledging around £17 million each.

In an executive order signed last month, Trump reinstated the global gag rule, a US aid policy Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan in 1984 have imposed but their Democrat counterparts have lifted.

Lövin cited evidence from the World Health Organisation showing that, under George W Bush’s presidency, the rule increased abortions and maternal deaths from unsafe terminations. “This is something we can prevent,” she said.

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