#SheDecides — and in Brussels, #WeDecided….

By Karl Hofmann, President and CEO, PSI

Dateline Brussels, March 3rd, 2017.

The Trump administration finalized on March 3rd new rules for the application of Trump’s new, expanded Mexico City Policy (MCP) – also known as the Global Gag Rule – which Trump first announced on January 23rd, the first business day after his inaugural.

In the intervening 38 days between January 23rd and March 3rd, the global reproductive health and rights community got angry, got mobilized and got active. On March 2nd, in Brussels, officials from the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark hosted the #SheDecides conference, designed to bring activists and funders together to counter MCP.

Governments and philanthropists pledged some US$ 190 million in new funds, to the benefit of civil society organizations such as PSI and Marie Stopes International, UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). PSI was gratified and honored to be singled out by the Canadian government, whose support in response to MCP will be hugely important in minimizing the negative impact.

The outpouring of support was impressive to see, and that much more so because of the speed with which this movement came together. Speakers in Brussels highlighted what all the well-established evidence clearly demonstrates: that “gagging” conversations about abortion does not reduce abortion, but only serves to drive it underground and make it less safe. As Marie Stopes International CEO Simon Cooke said, “unsafe abortion doesn’t GO away just because others LOOK away.” During previous applications of MCP, rates of unintended pregnancy, abortion and maternal death went up, not down. MCP is perversely and profoundly anti-women.

But the #SheDecides conversations were not anti-anything, but instead very positive and committed to addressing unmet reproductive health needs of women, including safe abortion.

Trump’s iteration of MCP is more sweeping that anything previously seen. His Gag Rule aims to condition not just USAID family planning assistance, as was previously the case, but ALL global health assistance from ALL agencies of the U.S. government. As we have come to expect from this administration, no action, no matter how damaging, will ever be conceived as “small.” The sweeping assault on reproductive health and rights from this policy is GREAT – and will be deadly.

The #SheDecides effort must be sustained, and the movement must be prepared for a marathon race, not a sprint. March 2nd in Brussels was an important down payment, but activists and committed funders and philanthropists require long-term thinking.

Bad policies, destructive policies, badly executed activities all inevitably fall on Sara –  the name PSI gives to our archetypical consumer.  #SheDecides – and we can all help. When we lose sight of that, #SheLoses.