Donors pledge nearly €190m for family planning

2017-03-03 08:01
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Brussels - Nations and philanthropists pledged close to$200m on Thursday for family planning at an international conference that aimed to make up for the gap left by President Donald Trump's ban on US funding to groups linked to abortion.

Some 50 governments attended the hastily convened one-day conference in Brussels and the funding drive was boosted by Sweden, Canada and Finland each promising €20m.  Private donors like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided tens of millions more.

Conference host and Belgian Deputy Premier Alexander De Croo said one anonymous US donor committed $50m, pushing the total up to a provisional €181m.

Developing nations

One of Trump's first acts as president was to withhold an estimated half a billion dollars a year in funding from international groups that perform abortions or provide information about them. The Trump administration said the ban is necessary because it doesn't want to provide funds for something it considers morally wrong.

Officials in many European nations and around the world say the move just hurts women and girls who need family planning the most and will lead to more abortions, not less.

"The purely ideological decision of one country" can push women and girls back "into the Dark Ages," said conference host Belgian Deputy Premier Alexander De Croo.

"We will start making something great again," he said of the drive to boost family planning policies in developing nations, riffing off Trump's "make America great again" campaign slogan.

Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands had already committed to contributing at least €10m each. African and Asian countries were also at the conference, as well as officials from the European Union and the United Nations and private donors.

International groups

The conference stressed that abortion was only a small part of family planning in developing nations. It emphasised the need for more sex education and more availability of contraceptives and warned about the dangers of sexually related diseases and of female genital mutilation. It also backed sexual rights, so women and girls can stand up for the inviolability of their bodies.

US bans on funding international groups that perform or even talk about abortions have been instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984. Former President Barack Obama last lifted it in 2009. But under Trump, the ban has been massively expanded.


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