Ploumen, back from Kenya: ‘We need She Decides now more than ever’

‘We need She Decides now more than ever.’ That was development minister Lilianne Ploumen’s message on her return from a two-day working visit to Kenya, where she went to see several programmes working for sexual health, family planning and safe abortion. She Decides was launched early this year as a response to the introduction of the Mexico City Policy, a US measure that will cut hundreds of millions of dollars a year from aid to foreign organisations that provide information and services related to safe abortion in developing countries. While in Kenya the minister learned that the Mexico City Policy will be applied even more broadly than originally announced.

‘This decision means that the policy will affect not only family planning programmes but also a wide range of other healthcare efforts, including the struggle against HIV/AIDS and malaria,’ Ms Ploumen said. ‘The impact on millions of women and men will be huge. This has increased my resolve to fight even harder for She Decides. I will be seeking broader support from more countries. For example, I will try to put She Decides on the agenda of the EU-Africa Summit.’ The joint summit will take place later this year.

Under the Mexico City Policy, foreign organisations that provide information about safe abortion or support before, during or after an abortion will no longer receive funding from the US. The cut-off applies not only to activities related to abortion but also to organisations’ other work, such as safe sex awareness campaigns or assistance to teenage mothers – and now, according to the latest announcement, to other healthcare programmes as well, such as campaigns against HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Calculations have shown that programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa will be hardest hit by the Mexico City Policy. Kenya currently depends on US funding for 70% of its family planning budget. ‘This aid could disappear now, which naturally would tear an enormous hole in these organisations’ budgets,’ said the minister. ‘They are already projecting a shortfall in contraceptives for 2018, for instance. As a result, the number of abortions will not fall, as the US wants, but will in fact rise.’

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