"She Decides" Could Decide the Future of Family Planning
By Pooja Kanabur
In January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reinstating a policy that originated in the Reagan era. This policy, known as the Mexico City policy, blocks United States government funding for foreign health providers who discuss abortion as a family-planning option. Although United States law already prohibits the use of American taxpayer daughters for abortion services anywhere, including in countries where the procedure is legal, President Trump has taken the prohibition further. His order threatens to freeze funding to any nongovernmental organizations in less developed countries if they offer abortion counseling or advocate for the right to seek abortion, a freeze which applies regardless of the source of funding for these abortion services.
Needless to say, President Trump’s order has resulted in mixed reactions throughout the nation—while some Americans are applauding the president for standing up for the rights of the unborn, others are criticizing the entire administration for its disregard of women’s reproductive rights. Interestingly enough, however, the most unexpected response comes from Europe. On January 24, 2017 Lilianne Ploumen, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in the Netherlands, launched a nongovernmental organization called She Decides in order to raise money for aid groups whose funding is threatened under the new order.
She Decides calls on governments and international organizations to give their political and financial support to sexual and reproductive health and family planning worldwide. In particular, they encourage an increase in funding for organizations affected by the withdrawal of US grants. Furthermore, She Decides urges countries that have been strongly negatively impacted by the president’s order to expand their implementation of sexual and reproductive health policy by allocating more money towards such programs.
The She Decides initiative is quickly taking the global playing field by storm. The Dutch ministry recently a donation of ten million euros to the organization, which Belgium and Denmark followed with matching grants. Then, on March 2, 2017, the government of Belgium hosted an international conference in Brussels, during which governments, civil society organizations, United Nations organizations, and members of the business community came together to discuss the rapidly growing initiative and its effect on family planning and sexual and reproductive health. Furthermore, the conference provided a platform for sexual health and family planning organizations to talk about their work and for women to share the importance of having access to such organizations.
There’s no doubt that the Mexico City policy has consistently been a polarizing force in American politics. Since its introduction in 1984, Democratic administrations have suspended the policy multiple times, only for it to be reimposed every time by Republican administrations. As a result, women have never truly enjoyed unrestricted access to family planning information and sexual and reproductive rights. However, the rapid momentum of the She Decides initiative suggests that perhaps, women are right on the brink of achieving complete access. In just two short months, She Decides has raised over 30 million euros, hosted an international conference, and most importantly, has begun to raise awareness for a significant issue affecting billions of women around the globe.
And thus, by simply getting the world talking about the importance of reproductive rights, the She Decides initiative has the potential to change the future of family planning, despite any negative effects of President Trump’s executive order. As long as She Decides continues to raise funds and promote sexual and reproductive health, international aid organizations will have the opportunity to continue providing their services around the world, as well as increase their span to more nations.
In today’s day and age, the most important thing we has humans can do is join together to create a global movement so powerful that that women will finally gain the access to basic reproductive rights they so rightly deserve, regardless of any regressive acts that attempt to block this from happening. She Decides has begun this movement; it is up to us to continue it.