An effort to help global sexual health charities losing support under the Trump administration has reached a new milestone: $300 million in fundraising.
The Dutch government revealed the new figure on Friday. The "She Decides" initiative — the brainchild of one Dutch official — kicked off earlier this year, and announced $190 million in funding as of early March.
Thanks to "ongoing enthusiasm," donations from nations, organizations and individuals have since continued to flow in. Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which also supports NPR) have all pledged new funding, the Dutch statement says, while Rwanda, Chad, South Africa, South Korea, Senegal, Nigeria and Mozambique have signed on as "friends" of the initiative.
"It's fantastic to see how the funding gap is shrinking month by month," Lilianne Ploumen, the foreign trade and development cooperation minister who is running the initiative, said in the statement.
The fundraising effort began after President Trump reinstated the "Mexico City policy." That's a rule that says U.S. foreign aid cannot be sent to any organization that provides or "promotes" abortion, which can include providing information about abortion.
Generally, Republican administrations impose the Mexico City policy and Democratic ones don't. But Trump went further than past presidents. Previous versions of the Mexico City policy applied to reproductive health funding — about $600 million a year. But the new policy covers all global health funding, more than $8 billion annually.
As NPR's Nurith Aizenman reported in January, "It remains to be seen how much of that goes to groups that currently provide or promote abortion as defined by the policy — and that would opt to give up U.S. aid dollars rather than falling in line."
In March, Nurith wrote about the origin of the She Decides program. Ploumen, the minister who launched it, told Nurith she was disappointed by Trump's decision to reinstate the policy — then realized she was "in a position to do something":
"As a self-identified Catholic — 'I do go to church, though not every week,' Ploumen says — she might seem an unusual champion of this cause. Several Catholic organizations are among the staunchest supporters of the U.S. funding ban, arguing that it's the only way to ensure that U.S. tax dollars don't go toward supporting abortions overseas.
" 'Without the Mexico City Policy in place, the U.S. is ... exporting the destruction of life as a solution to challenges faced by families in developing countries,' Deirdre McQuade, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told NPR shortly after Trump's election. 'Poor women in developing nations don't want help aborting their children. They're calling for food, clean water, housing, education and medicine for their families.'
"Ploumen counters that her Catholic faith is actually what drives her commitment to the effort.
" 'We were taught that your faith helps you to develop your own conscience and to make your own decisions,' she says. 'But in order to be able to do so you have information and you have to know what your options are, so that you can weigh them according to your values.' "
"And like other opponents of the funding ban, Ploumen argues it will prove counterproductive by resulting in more unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions."