On January 24, American President Donald Trump reinstated the so called “Mexico City Policy.” By this action, he choked American funding for all organisations that provide or promote abortion, under any pretext, outside the United States, even if they finance these particular activities with money from other sources. The implication is that organisations fitting this description will miss out on over $600 million from the American taxpayer over the next four years.
The reactions were immediate and largely predictable, par the course from the liberal intelligentsia. He was criticised, not just for “endangering the lives of” women in developing countries by scaling back on support for the advancement of their “reproductive and sexual health,” but also for surrounding himself with men while doing so, for only men were in the picture taken when he announced the action (really?).
The next day, January 25, Liliane Ploumen, Dutch minister for international development cooperation, announced a new initiative by the Dutch government to help plug the resultant deficit using funds from the Dutch government as well as partner governments, civil society organisations and private donors. As a token, Ms Ploumen instantly committed $10 million to initiative, dubbed “She Decides,” launched a slick website, with a photo of smiling African women and girls for a banner, to promote it, and scheduled a conference for March 2nd.
From the proceedings conference, it is clear the initiative is going to be successful, at least for the foreseeable future. $250 million was pledged at the conference, which was co-organised with Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. The largest pledge, $20 million, came from Canada. A lot of these funds will now find their way to one of several organisations working in Africa, chief among them Marie Stopes International, which has been rather badly hit by Trump’s action.
To buttress her initiative with some legitimacy, Ms Ploumen offered as an argument the statement that, among other things, “In the Netherlands… there is firm support for the rights of women and girls – and there is a lot of support of promoting, but also protecting those rights… The Netherlands has a long tradition of standing up for sexual and reproductive rights. I don’t see that being a problem.” Which means the reputation of The Netherlands is quite important in this matter.
Notably lacking were the sentiments of the people the initiative purportedly aims to help. No woman from Africa was quoted, no government mentioned as imploring the Netherlands, or any other western country, for that matter, to help fill the looming funds gap. Just as notably missing was the statistic that an overwhelming majority of Africans do not support abortion. And nobody bothered to mention that only three African countries (there are 54 of these, by the way) sent representatives, and junior ones for that matter, to the conference. It didn’t even make the news over here, by the way.
So what we have here is a classic case of a Western government presuming to know better matters from which it is most distant, proceeding on this misguided premise to offer bogus solutions to problems that could be, and are being, addressed in far better ways, and leaving in its wake broken individuals, families and societies. For that is what abortion has done, is doing, and will do, everywhere it goes.
It does not matter whether the procedures themselves are performed by unscrupulous doctors in well-equipped modern clinics funded by European and North American taxpayers or by unscrupulous quacks in dingy backrooms. Obianuju Ekeocha of Culture of Life Africa has called it “The Dictatorship of the Wealthy Donor” in a recent video.
The lie that this initiative seeks to safeguard women’s health goes deeper than this, however. It is all about abortion, which is hardly a matter of women’s health. The family planning programmes mentioned are just a front. The other day, I wrote here about the impunity with which Marie Stopes International performs abortions in African countries where it is illegal. So Ms Ploumen’s initiative has set itself up, not just to fund abortions, but also to enable the contravention of laws in countless countries in Africa and around the world.
The Dutch initiative would still be revolting, but would be just slightly less so, if it came at a different time. For while Ms Ploumen was waxing lyrical about helping the women of Africa gain access to “sexual and reproductive health” services, and making sure Trump has “no choice” in the matter, this was the least of the worries of the mothers of at least 1.4 million children in north-eastern Nigeria, parts of South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, who face the threat of starvation, malnutrition or even death, due to a famine.
A long drought, coupled with long-running conflicts in all four countries, have colluded to destroy harvests and cut off over 20 million people from critical food and water resources. Last December, the Dutch government pledged $5.3 million to help South Sudan handle the looming crisis. Certainly a considerable amount. But it doesn’t seem to have done much. On February 22, the UN secretary general released a statement on the famine, calling for urgent international action before too much harm is wrought.
The Dutch, instead, went ahead with their conference on “reproductive and sexual health” and raised $250 million for abortions in Africa, which nobody needs. If ever there was a list of grossly misplaced priorities, I would be greatly puzzled if this case didn’t make the top of it.
Mathew Otieno writes from Nairobi, Kenya