26 Jan 2017

Netherlands government to counter Trump abortion funding ban

8:24 am on 26 January 2017

The Netherlands is to set up an international fund to support abortion services hit by US President Donald Trump's order to cut US foreign aid.

Dutch Minister Lilianne Ploumen

Dutch Minister Lilianne Ploumen said Donald Trump's move would lead to more maternal deaths. Photo: AFP

Lilianne Ploumen - a Dutch minister - said it would set up "a well-financed fund" to allow other governments, businesses and charities to donate.

The Netherlands would do everything in its power to help women "remain in control of their own bodies", she said.

Mr Trump ordered a ban on US aid to support abortion services overseas.

For decades, it has been the case that no US money can be spent on overseas abortions.

But on Monday, the president signed an executive order - known as the global gag rule - which takes that a step further, prohibiting organisations that receive US family planning assistance from using non-US funding to provide abortion services, information, counselling or referrals.

Donald Trump, seated, signed, three executive orders on Monday, including one banning any US-funded organisations from speaking about abortion.

Donald Trump, seated, signed, three executive orders on Monday, including one banning any US-funded organisations from speaking about abortion. Photo: AFP

Mrs Ploumen, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development co-operation, said the Dutch government was aiming to support groups that could be affected.

She said banning abortions would not result in fewer taking place, but rather it would lead to "more irresponsible practices in back rooms and more maternal deaths".

"The Netherlands has been very active in promoting sexual and reproductive rights for women," she told the BBC.

"This executive order of President Trump makes it impossible for organisations not only to deliver the service of safe abortions, but also to give sexuality education, to promote contraceptives and make sure that people have access to contraceptives, so the impact is huge on the lives of women and children."

She said the response both in the Netherlands and internationally had been "very positive".

"Obviously, the Netherlands cannot do this by ourselves, we need support," she added.

"Other governments, foundations, but many, many citizens have approached me and said let us know how we can contribute.

"In the Netherlands, I would suggest that there is firm support for the rights of women and girls - and there is a lot of support of promoting, but also protecting those rights."

'Repressing women'

The US funding ban - known as "the Mexico City policy" - was first created in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan.

The policy was rescinded by the Clinton administration, before being reinstated under President George W Bush.

In 2009, Barack Obama again ended it.

Pro-choice groups have criticised the decision by Mr Trump, saying the move was "repressing women".

During the presidential campaign, his team said he believed decisions on the legality of the procedure should be left up to individual states in the US, with any criminal penalties being reserved for abortion providers.

He has said he personally supports an abortion ban exception for "rape, incest and the life of the mother".

- BBC