A chorus of MPs and charities have called on the development secretary, Priti Patel, to offer more support to women's organisations that work to improve women’s reproductive rights, after Donald Trump blocked their funding.
Yesterday BuzzFeed News revealed that the Tory MP Sarah Wollaston had written to Patel to request action, while The Guardian later reported that six Labour MPs had written asking Britain to follow the Netherlands in forming an overseas fund.
When asked to respond to the calls, sources in the Department for International Development (DFID) told BuzzFeed News a plan had not been formulated, but were keen to point out that the department has always seen itself as a global leader on family planning provision and wishes to continue being so.
Wollaston's letter asked Patel to publish the plans her department has to "ensure continued access to (a) family planning advice and (b) safe termination and contraception through its programmes".
Her letter was welcomed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which said:
"We are pleased to see politicians sticking up for women’s reproductive rights globally, and we are fully supportive of efforts to plug the potential gap that could be left by Trump’s Global Gag Rule. It is absolutely right that parliamentarians do all that they can to mitigate its impact".
Kate Osamor, the shadow secretary of state for international development, is also calling on the government to help bridge the gap and make sure that these organisations can still function without American help.
"It is imperative that we safeguard the right of women everywhere to have autonomy over their own bodies, and this contradictory policy means that potentially both abortion services and contraception would be withheld from women who need them," Osamor told BuzzFeed News.
"The secretary of state for international development must commit to ensuring the government will continue to support the work of NGOs across the globe who provide these vital services and issue a strong statement on her intention to do so."
The Guardian reported that Stephen Doughty, Stella Creasy, Gareth Thomas, Stephen Twigg, Luciana Berger, and Anna Turley had also written in support of such a scheme.
Trump announced on Monday that he would be reinstating the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, which means the US will stop funding organisations providing abortion services.
A spokesperson for Marie Stopes warned: "Without alternative funding, the loss of [their] services alone will result in 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths between 2017 and 2020."
Trump's policy equates to a blanket ban on the funding of all NGOs worldwide that are involved in abortions, or even handing out information about abortions, even if abortions are legal in the country in question.
In 2016, the US had allocated $608 million for family planning and $9.5 billion for global health organisations – both budgets now come under the gag rule.
The Marie Stopes spokesperson added: "Women and girls who lack access to a choice of family planning methods are less likely to complete education, have a career, or be able to pursue their plans and dreams for the future.
"They are more likely to experience unintended pregnancy, and more likely to risk death and disability by undergoing an unsafe abortion."
A spokesperson for DFID declined to comment.
An earlier version of this post attributed a quote from Kate Osamor to a Marie Stopes spokesperson.
Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Marie Le Conte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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