Netherlands to set up global abortion support fund to counter Trump's cuts

US President Donald Trump banned federal funding of abortions overseas on Jan 23, 2017.
US President Donald Trump banned federal funding of abortions overseas on Jan 23, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands is launching a global fund to help women access abortion services to compensate for US President Donald Trump's ban on US federal funding for foreign groups providing abortions or abortion support for family planning abroad.

The Dutch government has held preliminary discussions on the initiative with other European Union members who have responded positively, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. Governments outside the EU, companies and social institutions will also be approached to participate.

Trump on Monday reinstated a policy that requires foreign NGOs who receive US global family planning funds to certify that they do not perform abortions or provide abortion advice as a method of family planning.

Dutch officials estimate that Trump's restrictions will cause a funding shortfall of US$600 million over the next four years. Women's rights and health campaigners have reacted with anger at Trump's move.

They say restrictions on abortion endanger women's lives. Trump has also pledged to withdraw funding from US domestic abortion services.

The policy was announced on Tuesday by Liliane Ploumen, minister for international development cooperation, whose Labour Party - the junior coalition partner in the government - is traditionally staunchly favour of abortion rights.

The Netherlands's laws on reproduction and reproductive health are among the world's most liberal. The Dutch vote in parliamentary elections in March.

Foreign ministry spokesman Herman van Gelderen said he was confident relations with the new US administration would not be damaged by the measure. "Where decisions are taken that are bad for women in developing countries we should help those women," he said. "It's not about the politics, it's about those women."

The policy also prohibits US federal assistance for foreign groups that use non-US funds for those abortion services or lobby foreign governments to legalise abortion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which looks at US global health policy.

Intermittently implemented by US governments since 1984, Barack Obama lifted the measure at the start of his own presidency in 2009. It does not apply to abortion or abortion advice in cases where a pregnancy is a risk to the life of the mother or has resulted from incest or rape.