Donor governments and private funders have pledged €181 million ($190 million) for family planning services to fill a projected gap created by a White House ban on U.S. funding to groups linked to abortion, the Associated Press reports.
In response to the Trump administration's decision to withhold an estimated half billion dollars a year in funding from nongovernmental organizations that perform abortions or provide information about them, fifty-seven nations pledged support for family planning services at a one-day conference earlier this week in Brussels. Governments committing funds include Sweden (€20 million), Canada (€20 million), Finland (€20 million), Belgium (€10 million), Denmark (€10 million), Norway (€10 million), and the Netherlands (€10 million). In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $20 million, while an anonymous U.S. donor committed $50 million.
Belgian deputy premier Alexander De Croo, who hosted the pledge conference, told the AP that the alliance of nations wanted to make sure "the purely ideological decision of one country" does not push women and girls back "into the Dark Ages." Conference organizers said that while many nations could not make official pledges at the hastily convened conference for technical budgetary reasons, the funding drive would continue at an international meeting later this year.
U.S. bans on funding NGOs that perform or discuss abortions have been instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984, with the last one lifted by President Barack Obama in 2009. The Trump administration, however, has significantly expanded the ban, the AP reports. Conference participants said the number of involuntary pregnancies and abortions tends to increase when funding bans are in place.
The ban "threaten[s] to suspend a large number of projects helping to defend the health of millions of girls, even helping to save their lives," said Finnish development minister Kai Mykkanen. "We [will] respond to the situation...by investing in the improvement of women's and girls' rights even more than before."