Share-Net Report Thematic Meeting Contraception & Abortion

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09/06/2017 12:00 am

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Share-Net Netherlands organized a Thematic Meeting on Contraception & Abortion together with its respective working group on the 23rd of May 2017. During this thematic meeting, participants gained insights in the present political and funding climate for contraception and abortion and discussed recent developments & trends. Participants learned more about the background of the Mexico City Policy (MCP), its effects in previous periods, and its current effect in the ‘Trump era’. The meeting was attended by 85 participants.

Session 1:

The first session started with a presentation by Alanna Galati (Guttmacher Institute) on the historical background of the MCP, Kemp-Kasten, related US policies and funding, and its effects.

Presentation & Summary Alanna Galati, Senior Policy Manager – Guttmacher Institute

During a panel discussion Neil Datta (EPF), Elena Zacharenko (consultant) and Riva Eskinazi (IPPF) shed their light on developments and trends in the opposition against SRHR and women’s rights. The effects (as far as known) of Trumps reinstatement of the MCP, and actions that followed.

Key Takeaways Neil Datta – Secretary, European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF)

Over the past ten years there has been a distinct increase in the number of Anti-Choice groups and there has been an increase on money spend on Anti-Choice movements in Europe. There is now a well-developed infrastructure of Anti-Choice groups in all the main decision making capitals like Brussels, Vienna, Strasbourg etc.

Europe responded very well on the earlier MCP re-installments. However, Europe was at a different place back then, compared to where it is now.

Main reasons:

  • There are big Anti-Choice movements with a well-developed infrastructure and increased professionalism. These organizations have comparable capacity to Pro-Choice organizations in terms of legal, political and campaigning advocacy. They are well connected, super national movements.
  • Anti-Choice organizations have redefined their framework for SRHR with a threefold approach. They are in favor of 1) protecting life from conception to natural death, 2) protection of traditional patriarchal heterosexual marriage and 3) religious freedom. By religious freedom they mean specifically the legal right to derogate from discrimination laws based on their own religion. They present this as the framework of human dignity, an alternative to human rights. Their name for the Pro-Choice movement: the Gender Agenda. This includes basically anything the Vatican disapproves in terms of social innovations like contraception, abortion, comprehensive sexuality education, family planning and euthanasia.
  • Coalescence of 3 movements opposing the Gender Agenda of Pro-Choicers: Religious Anti-Choice infrastructure (Spain), Populism (France, Germany, NL), Authoritarianism & Liberalism (Poland, Hungary, Russia, Turkey)
  • Geo-politics: Vatican – new pope is more charismatic, but the stance against SRHR remains unchanged. This will remain unchanged as it is church dogma. Now it might even be more dangerous as there is a more sympathetic and charismatic face expressing their message.
  • New player: Russian Federation: defender of traditional values and family, more specifically Christian Orthodox values. The Russian Federation pro-actively offers itself as an alternative to the immoral West. This is an attractive alternative for some countries which countries are under pressure from the progressive West for their human rights abuse.
  • Malta, Poland and Hungary go along with the 28 members states in EU discussions as long as possible – in the end they pull out, so there is no agreement and to weaken SRHR.


  • There is a counter movement to what we are doing. What we are trying to progress others are equally trying to push back.
  • Everything we do in this area has a geo-political dimension: decisions are not only evidence-based, but also subjective and political.
  • We have to be pro-active! We should not assume that everything we gained is irreversible.
  • Not everything we want is inevitable, for instance legal gay marriage in all EU member states. At the same time we should be optimistic. We know we are doing something good when there is a reaction like the Anti-Choice movement.

Key Takeaways Elena Zacharenko – Independent Policy and Advocacy Consultant

Anti-Choice and Anti-SRHR activity has been intensifying and professionalizing in opposition.  Adaption of US tactics takes place in the EU. In Elena’s report she has identified 112 members of the EU parliament who are favorable to the Anti-Choice cause (15% of the total) scattered throughout the political scene. At this moment around 20/25 organisations are lobbying the EU parliament. They are organizing workshops on lobby & advocacy, communications etc. just like Pro-Choice organizations. Anti-Choice organizations often present themselves as Human Rights NGOs, defenders of fundamental freedoms, defenders of the rights of the child, defenders of marginalized (traditional value holders). Policy makers are very often not aware of who are targeting them and providing them with amendments and what these amendments mean.


  • If Anti-Choice organizations are presenting themselves as the voice of human rights and international human rights standards, anyone opposing them has to explain why they are opposing human rights. This is something to keep in mind when developing your own messaging.

Key Takeaways Riva Eskinazi – Chief, Resource Mobilization – Europe and Emerging Markets, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

IPPF and their partners in 170 countries will not sign a policy that denies human rights and puts the life of women at risk.  During the previous Global Gag Rule under the Bush Administration IPPF’s Governing Council already put a resolution in place against signing the Global Gag Rule. The policy allows us to do three things: 1) Publicly oppose the reinstatement of the Gag Rule, 2) Insure that all our member organizations are informed of the Gag Rule and that if they choose to sign the Gag Rule, they will no longer be in line with the mission and vision of IPPF and they no longer comply with the membership standards. As such they will no longer be eligible to receive funding and can no longer be a member organization. None of IPPF’s member organizations will sign the Global Gag Rule.

A crisis management group was established to capture, analyse and disseminate information to all partners. IPPF is very exposed this time. Last time the Global Gag Rule was in place, IPPF had a strategy to seek HIV funding. Our strategy had become to not only provide Family Planning services but integrated Sexual and Reproductive Health Services including abortion and HIV. We were able to raise funding for HIV to add to our contraceptive funding. IPPF never expected the Global Gag Rule to include the whole health portfolio. This time it is beyond family planning budget lines.

In monetary terms, the expansion means our secretariat together with our member associations are facing a removal of around 100 million dollars over the coming three years. More specifically, we estimate that around 58 million will be removed from voluntary family planning programs and 42 million from HIV programs. We estimate that our member associations will face cuts in about 30 countries. Primarily three regions that are most affected are Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and Latin-America and the Caribbean. With the 100 million funding, IPPF could have prevented 4.8 million unintended pregnancies, 1,7 million unsafe abortions and could have provided 70 million condoms to prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs. Examples for member associations: Colombia – Pro-Familia losing a lot of funds for 2 project, one on Zika and one on displaced populations. Mozambique – 8 HIV projects are at risk of being shut down.

The imposition of the Global Gag Rule means that professional evidence-based organizations are denied access to vital resources and IPPF is already seeing that there is a chilling effect in that other NGOs that are not affected by the Global Gag Rule are unwilling to work with our member associations because they are scared they also might be loosing their funding. In practical terms, all the investments that IPPF did in women’s and girls’ health is negatively impacted. The Global Gag Rule is not just impacting the health of women but also all of our key development priorities because they are closely linked.

Positive Note:

IPPF is playing active role in shaping the global response o the Global Gag Rule:

  • Through their networks they have been co-organizing women’s marches
  • Their Media outreach (national/international TV, radio, press) within hours of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule
  • Their Policy updates are used by ministers to support them in making financial and policy decisions
  • Their regional offices are working very closed to member associations to plan business continuity.

All the funding that USAID had committed for 2017 to IPPF, the funding that has already been released to IPPF for 2017, IPPF will be able to use that money for their programs and will go on until September 2017.

IPPF is grateful for the She Decides initiative and plays an active role. They have received generous pledges from the goverments of Belgium, Canada, Japan and Sweden for the next 1-2 years. IPPF hopes that this money will go to the most impact full member associations. IPPF goal: no interruption of services. IPPF wants to work much harder with their member organizations to build their capacity to strengthen their financial sustainability and work more closely with their governments on national advocacy.

Main Points Discussion:

  • Difficult to categorize MiP pro or con.
  • Tipping point countries: Croatia. Not agree with She Decides, even said they will reaching out to other countries not to. Central Europe – Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia – concerning. Well documented Russian influence in Eastern Europe. Wedge between EU and them to bring them closer to Russia.
  • Funding of opposition in EU: they claim private foundations, crowd funding – but this can never be enough. US (anti-choice organisations setting up offices here), Carlos Slim, French organization, Qatar royal family, large groups of individuals, online petition (citizen go)Nova Terre from Italy (Luca Voluntee). It is like a puzzle, we don’t have all the pieces, but we can see the puzzle.
  • How to stay unified? To monitor the anti-movement is really key. We need to widen our own reach as well, talk to much wider groups. Economic, climate change, etc. More advocacy is needed on the country level – train them to go to much wider groups. We need to use a better accessible language.
  • The idea behind all the US politics rights now is the ruin US foreign aid. They don’t believe that global health is a solution – SRHR is part of that.
  • There is room for optimism: SDGs, every woman every child. She Decides, volunteer network, marches around the world.
  • How can the marches turn into political action? The world already got more progressive. The opposition is so strong, because we are so strong. We have the formal documents, like the SDGs. We are going through a storm, but we learn how to navigate. We have key assets – we know a lot about the Anti-Choice movement. We can organize ourselves better. Their agenda remains invisible – very telling how unacceptable they are. Liberal democracy and human rights – that is where we are working in (not only SRHR or global health)

Session 2

Session 2 started with pitches from 11 different organizations about their experiences, barriers and dilemmas on how to advocate, operate and implement programmes in restricted environments relating to SRHR and specifically to contraception & abortion. Afterwards, participants were given the opportunity go into in-depth discussions with three organizations of their choosing.

Case She Decides Task Force Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Case Royal Tropical Institute – Decision Making Process Not Signing the MCP
Case PSI Europe – The Harm Reduction Approach: supporting the health care provider
Case Female Health Company – Return on Investment in Health
Case Prisma – Mutual Grounds and Opportunities for Collaboration
Case Rutgers – The Ban on CSE in Uganda
Case WGNRR – Challenges Global Gag Rule for Advocates
Case FOS member of Be-Cause Health – Abortion in Peru
Case Simavi – Access to Save and Legal Abortion
Case CHOICE – Meaningful Youth Participation
Case Women on Web

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