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