by Chelsea Wilson Miller, CUNY Law Student and GJC Legal Intern
Last month, millions of women and allies around the world marched in solidarity for women’s rights. We marched in support of a platform that included the right to ensure reproductive freedom and refusal to accept cuts or restrictions on people’s reproductive rights. We came together on that day and the days since in camaraderie. We protested. We called our representatives. We tweeted.
President Trump has not only ignored our largely unified voices, he’s downright insulted us. Luckily, women around the world, including leaders in foreign governments, are standing up and fighting back.
Only a couple days after beginning his role as President of the United States, Donald J. Trump reinstated and expanded the “Global Gag Rule”, or the Mexico City agreement. Ronald Reagan first introduced the Global Gag Rule in 1984, which originally prevented foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from performing or actively promoting abortion as a method of family planning. The Gag Rule previously restricted funding only to foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. family-planning assistance, but Trump’s executive action extends the funding restrictions to all American global health assistance (ie. stopping the spread of viruses like HIV or Zika for men and women).
In practice this will mean organizations must choose whether to accept funds and forego counseling their communities, or sacrifice the funds to continue their important work of informing people of their reproductive health options. Everyone expected that Trump would re-instate the Global Gag Rule in the early days of his presidency. But expanding it so massively just 48 hours after the Women’s March of an estimated two million women, is truly offensive. This massive expansion also ignores the fact that U.S. funding (FY2016) prevented an estimated 11,000 maternal deaths and 2 million unsafe abortions last year.
Luckily, the Netherlands and its pro-choice sheroes are leading the battle against Trump’s aggressive actions. In direct response to Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Co-Operation, created a fundraising website: “She Decides - Global Fundraising Initiative”. The website aims to work as a resource to pick up the large tab that America’s prior leadership in global health assistance left behind. Financial contributions to the Initiative will be made available to organizations that lose funding because of the reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule. The Dutch government has also committed $10 million to the fund.
Such actions from Dutch female leaders are not new. In 2015, the Dutch pressured the European Union to increase its support of access to safe abortions for women and girls who are raped and impregnated during armed conflict. Member of European Parliament, Sophie in 't Veld, is one of the leaders of an effort to encourage the European Commission to alter its humanitarian aid policies for these women and girls.
In response to those efforts in September of 2015, members of the European Commission recognized the right to abortion for war rape victims. Later that same year, the European Union attached an anti-U.S. Helms Amendment to their 2016 E.U. Budget (The U.S. Helms Amendment, which was enacted in 1973, prohibits American foreign assistance funds for abortion services “as a method of family planning”).
Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule not only creates new barriers to victims who wish to receive counseling about abortions, it could have a devastating impact on the health of women and girls in poor countries around the world. Because many health care organizations cannot or will not certify that their health care workers will not discuss abortion, they will be forced to forgo U.S. funding. Luckily, the Dutch are on the offensive. Their swift reaction to address Trump’s actions will hopefully meet organizations’ added burdens. Additionally, the Netherlands’ continued effort to lobby the E.U. to increase support for similar programs for war-rape victims is worthy of recognition by the world.
To the Dutch leaders leading the battle for women’s rights to choose, we thank you. Millions of people worldwide marched to demand the stop of family-planning funding cuts, and the Dutch government wasted no time in taking concrete action.
Women, especially those who are raped in war, do not have to rely on the whims of the U.S. government to receive the necessary medical care they need. Both in the political battlefield and in the aftermath of the real battlefields throughout the world, the Netherlands has demonstrated that they’re truly fighting for women worldwide.