SEATTLE — The She Decides initiative is a global campaign working to protect the fundamental reproductive rights of all girls and women. The initiative began as a direct response to President Trump’s decision to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. As of August, the She Decides initiative has raised more than $300 million to help fund global sexual health charities aiding women in developing countries.
The U.S. has not directly funded abortions using international aid money since 1973, but Republican and Democratic administrations continuously replace and repeal the Mexico City Policy.
The policy, known by the “Global Gag Rule” by opponents, prevents NGOs abroad from receiving international aid funding from the U.S. if they provide safe abortions or information about abortions. President Trump has expanded the policy from covering reproductive health funding, which is around $600 million a year, to all global health funding, which constitutes around $8 billion annually. Global health funding encompasses fights against malaria, AIDs, tuberculosis, and countless other major health concerns.
Lilianne Poulmen, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and International Development, founded the She Decides initiative with the intent to protect the health and safety of millions of girls and women from what she considers a devastating policy. Other countries and individuals can support the cause through donations, signing the manifesto or simply “befriending” the campaign.
A one-day conference in Belgium in March largely accounts for the current donation total. Governments and individual philanthropists from 50 countries attended the conference and contributed almost $200 million to the She Decides initiative. Sweden, Belgium and Finland pledged an impressive $20 million each.
Organizations now must decide whether to limit their reproductive health programs in order to receive U.S. funding or continue to provide their full range of services and sacrifice U.S. help. The She Decides initiative hopes to support those who choose to maintain current practices without U.S. help.
Supporters of the She Decides initiative condemn the Mexico City Policy as both dangerous and counterproductive. According to the Guttmacher Institute, USAID’s $600 million budget for family planning and reproductive health prevents two million unsafe abortions and more than 11,000 deaths annually.
The She Decides website lists a number of harmful results from past years when the Mexico City Policy was in effect, including limited access to contraception and safe abortions, hampered HIV efforts and blocked access to healthcare in rural communities.
Ploumen argues that the Mexico City Policy is counterproductive because women will utilize unsafe, unregulated methods to achieve the same results. In fact, a 2011 study found that abortion rates rose and contraceptive use declined in countries with high exposure to the Mexico City Policy compared to those with low exposure.
The Mexico City Policy does not cover all abortions. The policy does not prohibit foreign NGOs from providing information about or performing an abortion in the case of rape, incest or a life-threatening pregnancy. It also allows foreign NGOs to give an answer when directly asked where to obtain a safe, legal abortion by a pregnant woman who states her intent to have a legal abortion.
There are many people who support the Mexico City Policy and thus oppose the She Decides initiative. For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops believes that the Mexico City Policy is “needed because the agenda of many organizations receiving U.S. population aid has been to promote abortion as an integral part of family planning.”
– Lauren Mcbride