Impact of President Trump’s Global Pro-Life Policy
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Pro-abortion NGOs gathered in Brussels to commiserate over the impact of the decision by President Trump to reissue and expand the US foreign aid policy known as Mexico City policy that prevents U.S. funding to international organizations that perform or promote abortion and to strategize as they face growing resistance to their radical “sexual and reproductive health and rights” agenda.  The conference was organized by Euro NGOs for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Population and Development under the title Reframe: Promoting SHRH in a Time of Growing Populism.

The allied organizations are fearful that recent elections of political leaders and parties tagged as “populist” in the U.S. and Europe favor pro-life and faith-based values as stated in the conference’s concept note:

“Europe's populist movements can bring far-right, nationalist and Eurosceptic parties into power across the continent in a series of upcoming elections in Europe. For the SRHR community this global political shift is particularly worrying as populism favours traditional over progressive values, national self-interest over international cooperation and development aid, and often also traditional sex roles for women and men over more fluid gender identities and roles. This will further boost anti-choice, anti-human rights and anti-gender groups.”

Pro-abortion angst consumed the conference as it was acknowledged that the cut-off of U.S. funding to global pro-abortion NGOs and to the foreign affiliates of U.S.-based NGOs is having its intended pro-life impact on the worldwide abortion industry. Attendees are also worried about reduced U.S. funding to the United Nations as the meeting’s concept note also states: “The consequences of the new USA government have become evident, with the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule and other detrimental decisions affecting USA funding for international development, the United Nations, and SRHR specifically… In this time of unprecedented change, the 2017 conference will provide a high-level platform to highlight and explore how we can promote and protect SRHR in future years, both within and beyond UN processes.”

Strategies to counter the funding loss include NGO engagement in the review process for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

“…taking into account the shifting political landscape, come up with concrete strategies to use the global framework of the Sustainable Development Goals to mitigate this backlash and to put gender, human and sexual and reproductive rights firmly on the agenda of the implementation, follow-up and review of the SDGs. Analyse evidence and progress after the second High-Level Political Forum and Voluntary National Reports, and collaboratively agree on ways to use SDG monitoring and accountability mechanisms to highlight the importance of development cooperation and SRHR.”

A news article on the conference—'Don't let the US set the agenda': Takeaways from EuroNGOs on reproductive right—details how pro-abortion NGOs are upset that the U.S. pro-life policy is imposing “restrictions on the services they can provide”— in other words their ability to end the lives of preborn children through abortion has been diminished. And the NGOs are not happy.

It was reported that Heather Barclay of She Decides—the pro-abortion funding initiative created by the Netherlands in response to President Trump’s pro-life foreign policy—called on audience members to “get angry, stay angry, and hold the line” within an SRHR “landscape [that] has shifted so far in the past 17 years that ground we thought was solid under our feet has turned to quicksand.”

The article also states that delegates “were clear that U.S. funding cuts will create a very deep hole” as the U.S. has historically been the biggest bilateral donor to family planning and reproductive health services and could affect up to $8 billion in funds.

The CEO of U.S. based EngenderHealth is reported to have “called on her fellow organizations to risk speaking out against “the establishment,” despite funding concerns, “When we start … worrying about our ability to attract funding, we are going down the wrong path. When we stay silent, we are gagging ourselves.”

Jonathan Rucks, head of advocacy at Washington, D.C.-based PAI whose international affiliates are affected by the pro-life policy called for developing countries to oppose the U.S. stating, “I would like to see more of public pushback on the part of governments. This is about the U.S. government forcing policy onto other governments; it's a sovereignty issue.”

That suggested pushback includes judicial and legislative challenges as suggested by Barclay of She Decides who called on advocates “to work through the courts and legislative processes to challenge the global gag rule and make it impossible to implement in future years” stating that “we need to find a way of making the U.S. opposition irrelevant.”

Kwabena Osei-Danquah from UNFPA explained that SRHR movements around the world “are complex and differ between countries”, including how the influence of religion plays out in different parts of the world. He explained that “conservative governments in Latin America tend to take a hard line on abortion but are more tolerant toward sexual rights, including gay marriage, he said. In some parts of Africa, the opposite is true.”

He encouraged the development of “strategies and definitions of SRHR” that take these differences into account were encouraged “in order to create an effective counter-movement.”

Belgium’s minister of development cooperation, Alexander De Croo, “suggested that tailoring the asks to the audience will be crucial to secure support for the SRHR agenda going forward. He argued that, in some contexts, health-based arguments for reproductive rights, including abortion, will be more effective than rights-based campaigns.”

This view was countered by Catherine Nyambura of FEMNET, a pan-African feminist network, who reportedly stated, “I see danger in us moving away from the human rights argument just to be strategic — we’ve already lost so much ground so if we move further we might put ourselves in a hole too big to get out.”

PNCI notes that as pro-abortion activists seek new approaches to advancing the violence of abortion, pro-life advocates should be encouraged and strengthened in their work to protect the least of these.