The Cable

After Trump Bans Abortion Funding, Dutch to Help Plug the Gap

If America reels back global support for women’s healthcare, can other countries pick up the slack?

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JANUARY 21:  Demonstrators make their way from the iamsterdam statue in front of the Rijksmuseum towards US Consulate during the Women's March held at Museumplein on January 21, 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  The Women's March originated in Washington DC but soon spread to be a global march calling on all concerned citizens to stand up for equality, diversity and inclusion and for women's rights to be recognised around the world as human rights. Global marches are now being held, on the same day, across seven continents.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JANUARY 21: Demonstrators make their way from the iamsterdam statue in front of the Rijksmuseum towards US Consulate during the Women's March held at Museumplein on January 21, 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Women's March originated in Washington DC but soon spread to be a global march calling on all concerned citizens to stand up for equality, diversity and inclusion and for women's rights to be recognised around the world as human rights. Global marches are now being held, on the same day, across seven continents. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

On Tuesday evening, the Netherlands announced it would launch an international fund to help women access abortions around the world.

The move came after President Donald Trump wasted no time in showing where he stood on the issues for which millions of women around the world recently marched. One of his first orders in office was to reinstate a global “gag rule” prohibiting U.S. federal funding for abortion and family planning, stirring cries of outrage and resistance. Now, the Dutch say they will help pay where the United States will not.

Filling that shortfall will be no short order. Dutch officials predict Trump’s new executive order may leave a $600 million gap in foreign aid over the next four years, but others say it could mean up to $9.5 billion in healthcare funding is at stake. Trump’s rule is even more restrictive than the gag rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) under Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, which prohibited NGOs with any involvement on abortion from receiving U.S. family planning funds. Trump’s executive order expands that rule rule to all global health funding, even those working on other issues like HIV or malaria.

“Obviously, the Netherlands cannot do this by ourselves. We need support,” Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation who announced the fund, told the BBC.

She said she has been in preliminary talks with almost 20 different countries and received interest from foundations and private citizens about contributing to the initiative. She did not say how much the Dutch government plans to commit.

The Netherlands is known to have some of the world’s most liberal reproductive policy laws, and will likely count on partners in other northern European countries with similarly staunch women’s rights traditions. On the other hand, some European countries, like Poland, have been going through their own abortion-rights battles recently.

While Ploumen plugged the Netherland’s commitment to women’s access to healthcare and equality, the Dutch government steered clear of calling out Trump directly.  

“Where decisions are taken that are bad for women in developing countries we should help those women,” Herman van Gelderen, a Dutch Foreign Minister spokesman, said. “It’s not about the politics, it’s about those women.”

The Dutch have had some fun at Trump’s expense. On Monday day, a Dutch television show aired a spoof video explaining the country to the new president in bombastic, Trump-like utterances. Still, there are some issues on which the Dutch don’t sound quite so different from the American president: On Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told immigrants, “act normal or go away.”

Photo credit: DEAN MOUHTAROPOULOS/Getty Images

Kavitha Surana is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy, where she produces breaking news and original reports with a particular focus on immigration, counterterrorism, and border security policy. Previously, Kavitha worked at New York magazine’s Bedford + Bowery blog, CNNMoney, The Associated Press in Italy, and Fareed Zakaria GPS and has freelanced from Italy and Germany for publications like Quartz, Al Jazeera America, OZY, and GlobalPost/PRI. In 2015, she was awarded a Fulbright trip to Germany, as well as a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation to report on migration and integration. She also reported from Rwanda and Senegal. Kavitha studied European history at Columbia University and holds a master’s degree in journalism and European studies from New York University. She has studied in Italy and Peru and speaks Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. @ksurana6

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