She Decides

by Ingrid Robeyns on February 3, 2017

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation has launched an initiative to raise funds to counter the possible effects of Trumps’ signing of the so-called Mexico City Policy (also called ‘global gag rule’), which prohibits US government funding of organizations that provide access to abortions, or information about it. The initiative is called She Decides, and aims to give girls and women access to family planning services.

The cynic could say that this is not the first time that a Republican President has reinstated the global gag rule, so why suddenly the attention? What did international parties do when Bush took office? (answer: I don’t know). While there may be a point to this comment, there is the more important point that if this were the only aggressive measure Trump had taken, there may not have been a need to #resist it; but as part of the broader scheme of things, it is good to react.

The super-cynic may add that surely a Minister from the Dutch Labour Party will be eager, 6 weeks before the Dutch elections, to try to do something about the very bad results that have been predicted for the Dutch Labour Party. I’ve been rather cynical about several of the policies that the Dutch Labour Party initiated and/or supported in the last 4 years, but I think this is not the right time and moment to be the cynical on this front. Rather, this is a very good initiative to show what can constructively be done to counter Trumps’ attempt to make girls’ and women’s lives considerably harder.

Even before Trump’s harmful measure, the UN reported the statistic that’s about 225 million women do not want to become pregnant yet do not have access to the contraceptives that they need. Without countermeasures to the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, that number will increase. By making sure that women have access to effective contraceptives of the type that they prefer, women can avoid unwanted pregnancies which make their lives unnecessarily harder, which negatively impact on children in those households, and which contribute to an even larger global population size.

You don’t need to feel indifferent about abortions to think this is a good initiative. You just need to face the fact that many unwanted pregnancies result in unsafe abortions, which lead to many dead mothers – a catastrophe not only for those women whose death could have been avoided, but also for the children they leave behind. Free, safe contraceptives of women’s own choice lead to fewer abortions; free, safe abortions lead to fewer unsafe, deadly abortions.

She Decides calls upon individual persons and organisations to support this initiative (information here). As soon as I’m back home from my trip to London, I will make a donation.



Omega Centauri 02.03.17 at 10:05 pm

So is is this supposed to work? It seems to me a direct counter would be for the rest of the world to pick up funding so that the level of services are unaffected. If it’s just sound and fury, I’m skeptical it would have any real impact (other than pissing off Trump and his supporters).


Ingrid Robeyns 02.03.17 at 11:29 pm

On the website, they say the fund will collect from governments, organisations, and individuals. In the letter that was sent to parliament (in Dutch), the minister writes that there is considerable international interest and that they will take the initative to the UN COmmission on the Status of Women, and the Commission Population and Development. (

The Dutch governemnt has pledged 10 million Euro, but to really make up for the expected decrease in funding, the Dutch Minister will have to convince her colleagues abroad to also join this initiative. I guess it’s too early to tell whether that will work, but it is possible that a coalition of non-US donors will pick up the drop in funding, and hence services will remain unaffected (in my view, services have to go up, since even under the previous regime there were an estimated 225 million women without access.


Faustusnotes 02.04.17 at 2:31 am

My understanding is that this iteration of the global gag is different from previous ones in that it applies to all us overseas health funding, whereas previous versions only applied to family planning funding. For example dubya’ version specifically excluded PEPFAR. The figure i saw at vox was that it applies to 9.5 billion in funds rather than the half a billion of the dubya era. This means that for example a Zika virus treatment and prevention program cannot provide info on abortions for women with microcephalic fetuses – a huge restriction that never existed before.

Hence perhaps the need for filler money from other countries – it may not be a cynical ploy at all.


Ingrid Robeyns 02.04.17 at 8:57 pm

thanks, Faustusnotes, that is a very significant difference in size and in the kind of the restriction. I read some reporting on the web on the effects of the reinstatement of the global gag rule under Bush, which were described on the ground as very significant, but then this will be several times worse. Very disheartening, and we can only hope that both private US donors as well as non-US-governments and private donors all over the world are willing to step in.


Suzanne 02.05.17 at 1:55 am

@1: Trump and his supporters are permanently pissed off, but anything that drives Orange Julius Caesar to even greater distraction will be welcome.

The reinstatement of the ban could have been expected from any Republican president. The expansion of the ban is, I suspect, pure Mike Pence, the highest-ranking official ever to speak at the D.C. anti-abortion march.

Thank you for the link to She Decides. It looks like a promising initiative.


Val 02.05.17 at 3:33 am

Thanks Ingrid, this sounds like a really good initiative – I’ve donated and posted on Facebook and will follow up further with Twitter and mails to politicians.

It would be really good to see it clearly as a UN global response too, so I hope this follows soon.


Adrian 02.05.17 at 2:50 pm

This funding won’t help much if there are not a wholly separate group of non-US based NGOs ready to begin offering family planning services from the group of organizations that currently receive USG health funding. That is the issue with the Gag rule, you can’t accept USG health funding if you offer abortion or family planning services, even if you do that with other money. So if an Nigerian NGO takes She Decides funds and does family planning they can’t accept any more USG funding, which in the cases of many NGO/CBOs would mean putting them out of business. And governments in many countries can’t be trusted with this kind of assistance so they are not the solution either.


Manta 02.05.17 at 10:37 pm

Does the gag rule change the total level of funding? Or only the distribution?


Adrian 02.06.17 at 3:06 am

Just changes what you can do if you accept USG health funding. The US doesn’t fund abortions or referrals to abortions through its aid budget but what the Mexico City Policy does is stop non-US organizations doing that through other funding, including their own resources, if they accept USG health funding. It limits actions that the US does not fund.

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