FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 2 2017
Brussels (BE) – Today, the Belgian, Dutch, Swedish and Danish Governments hosted a conference in support of the global fundraising initiative “She Decides.” The initiative was founded to combat the impact of the Global Gag Rule that Donald Trump signed on his second day in office.
Representatives from over 50 governments, civil society and grassroots activists gathered over the last two days in Brussels to discuss their work, how they will be impacted by Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule and to make commitments to ensuring funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world.
“The conference is an exciting opportunity to bring together people from different sectors to combine forces to counter the devastating impact of the US abortion restrictions and reinforce that access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is central to women’s rights,” says Akila Radhakrishnan, Vice-President and Legal Director of the Global Justice Center. “The Global Gag Rule exacerbates the chilling effect of the Helms amendment on abortion-related activities around the world and organizations frequently over-interpret the restrictions and halt all abortion-related activity for fear of losing their substantial US funding. With Gag not only re-instated but also massively expanded, we expect the chilling effect to be greater than anything we’ve seen before. We need governments and civil-society to stand up for women’s rights to cut through this chill.”
Two days after Trump signed the Gag Rule, Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation created the She Decides Initiative to increase the financial and political support for sexual health and family planning organizations worldwide, aiming to mitigate the impact of decreased US funding. Today, $181 million dollars was pledged towards supporting SRHR. And while the initiative is laudable, this support needs to be sustained and go beyond funding.
“We have had enormous successes in advancing women’s rights since the last time Gag was in place,” says Janet Benshoof, President of the Global Justice Center. “Today there is a growing consensus, including by European donors, that abortion is protected medical care under international humanitarian law and that as such, abortion services cannot be denied to rape victims in conflict for any reason, including donor restrictions. We are not starting in the same place we were 16 years ago when Bush re-instated the Gag Rule. This initiative and conference show how incredibly important it is to adhere to binding law, not politics, when it comes to women’s health and rights. To have everyone coming together to find creative and practical ways to ensure women have access to healthcare on the ground is really inspiring.”
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