EU funding of abortion in developing countries

abortion funding

When at the UN High-Level Conferences on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and Women (Beijing, 1995) attempts by the abortion lobby to frame “access to abortion” as a human right were successfully averted, pro-life had won an important battle. But the subsequent battle on implementation was won by the abortion lobby. Organizations like IPPF (the “International Planned Parenthood Federation”), Marie Stopes International, or Medécins Sans Frontières receive huge funds from international donors such as the UN, USAID, or the European Commission, and deploy them to run “healthcare” facilities in developing countries in which they provide abortions. Although abortion was never recognised as a human right, the UN and other ordanisations simply go on pretending it were one. Besides abortion, the same organisations funded by the same donors also promote the sterilisation of women and the use of medical contraception.

Underlying these policies is a Malthusian ideology according which one of the biggest threats for humankind is the risk of “over-population”, and a primary goal of development aid policy must be to reduce worldwide population growth, or to bring it to a complete standstill. This policy is applied in particular to the least developed countries and the poorest populations. In other words, the “fight against poverty” is often in fact a fight against the poor.

The European Union is one of the biggest international donors of development aid. Its development aid programmes are administered by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DG DEVCO), and include many projects related to issues such as “public health” and “maternal health”. Although the European Commission officially denies having any knowledge of this, it is an open secret that projects run by “partner organizations” such as IPPF and Marie Stopes always involve providing abortion and sterilization to women who, for whichever reason, so demand.

The exact amount of EU money used for such matters is unknown, because the Commission, despite various requests from the public and from Members of the European Parliament, has declined to investigate the matter. When challenged on the subject, the Commission has argued that its projects had the general purpose of improving “maternal health”, and that they were carried out in accordance with the legislation in force in the recipient country. In other words, if abortion was legal in the recipient country, then there was no reason for the Commission and its “partners” not to provide it.

This reasoning is hardly convincing. The “legality” of abortion in a given country in no way constitutes an obligation for the EU to finance abortions in that country.

Moreover, what the Commission fails to mention at such occasions are two points. One is that the Commission itself is pressuring developing countries to legalise abortion, making its development aid contingent on such legislation. The second is that no controls are in place to ensure that the laws of the recipient country are in all cases respected.

In 2012, European Dignity Watch (EDW) published a Report on “The Funding of Abortion through EU Development Aid”. That Report concerned only a very limited number of EU funded development aid projects, given that the Commission had declined the request made by the authors of the report to have access to all relevant documents, citing the “commercial interests” of the organisations receiving funding as a justification for this refusal. This seems hardly convincing, given that those recipients (IPPF and MSI) are not commercial entities, but charities without gainful purposes. Nevertheless, the documentation upon which the EDW Report was based was sufficient to show that the European Commission indeed does fund abortion in developing countries, including (in some cases) in countries where abortion is illegal. Examples cited in this regard include projects carried out in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Indonesia. As the Report reveals, anti-abortion laws are circumvented by a procedure called “menstrual regulation”. This procedure is identical to abortion, except that there is no prior examination whether the woman really is pregnant, so that the person administering the procedure is officially not aware of carrying out an abortion. For further details we refer to pages 15ff. of the Report.

In 2013/14, the European Citizens’ Initiative ONE OF US called on the Commission to propose legislation that would ensure that no EU funds could be used for the funding of abortion. Even though the Initiative, with more than 1.7 million signatures, was the most successful citizens’ initiative so far, the Commission declined to follow up on it, claiming that “while the objective of EU development cooperation is universal and equitable access to good quality care for all citizens, the EU fully respects the sovereign decisions of partner countries as to which health services will be provided and how they are packaged as long as they are in line with agreed human rights principles. Therefore the Commission does not favour earmarking aid for certain services only, because it would make the comprehensive and effective support of a country’s health strategy more difficult.”  Once again, the Commission tries to hold others, in this case the “sovereign decisions of partner countries”,responsible for what is done with the EU monies handed out to them. This abandonment of its own responsibilities as the EU’s executive body appears particularly cynical when considering the brazen disrespect for those partner countries’ laws that  was revealed by the EDW report.

AGENDA EUROPE therefore calls on the Commission to implement without further delay the proposals made by the ONE OF US initiative, and to cease funding abortions in developing countries.