STOCKHOLM: A Swedish government agency today threatened to cut aid to NGOs which have suspended abortion services over fears of losing US funding due to a decree signed by President Donald Trump. In one of his first acts as president, Trump in January reintroduced the global gag rule, enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, which prohibits foreign charities from using US federal funding to provide abortion services, information, counselling or referrals.
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), which aims to tackle global poverty, said it has decided that "partner organisations which receive aid to work on sexual and reproductive health and rights but also accept the president's orders, can no longer receive aid". "Sida's support for sexual and reproductive health and rights cannot be compromised," Director General, Carin Jamtin, said in a statement. "This concerns women having the right to decide when, and if, they want to have children and how many they want," she said, adding that unsafe abortions represent around 13 per cent of maternal deaths in the world.
The Netherlands estimates that a 600 million euro (USD 640 million) annual funding gap for NGOs was caused by Trump's ban. Sweden spends about seven percent of its annual development aid on issues related to sexuality. Sida says it plans to give an additional 170 million kronor (17 million euros, USD 20 million) this year to organisations that advise on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and safe abortions to compensate for the shortfalls of Trump's gag. One of the most gender equal nations in the world, Sweden has provided sex education in schools since the 1950s and Swedes show a "broad support for SRHR", according to Sida.