Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday pledged $650 million over the next three years for women’s reproductive health services and sexual education around the world.
“Like men, women should be able to choose when they want to start a family, how big their family should be, and who they want to start that family with,” Trudeau said at an event in Ottawa in honor of International Women’s Day, according to Vice News.
“When women have equal power and equal weight and equal leadership influence, the kinds of decisions are better,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s pledge, which is aimed at addressing gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, as well as providing women with safe and legal abortions and post-abortion care, came after President Donald Trump announced in January that he would reinstate what’s know as the “global gag rule.”
The rule is a U.S. government policy that bans organizations around the world that receive federal aid from providing information about abortions or offering abortion services. Democratic and Republican presidents have historically used the rule as a political football, reinstating or rescinding it depending on which party is in the White House.
The policy could have serious consequences for women’s health. According to Marie Stopes International, an organization that provides global abortions services, the funding cut to their activities alone will result in a projected 6.5 million unwanted pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions and 21,700 deaths over the next four years.
The premise that reducing abortion access reduces abortions is inaccurate, according to a 2015 report published by BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Women don’t stop having abortions when their access to safe and legal abortions services is limited. Instead, they have unsafe abortions, which could mean having the procedure performed by someone who doesn’t have formal medical training or that it is performed in unhygienic conditions.
“When women want to end a pregnancy they find a way,” Susheela Singh, the lead author of the 2015 report, previously told The Huffington Post. “Even in countries with very restrictive laws, women are still seeking abortions.”
In January, the Netherlands started a global fund to help women access abortion services, and pledged $10 million toward the four-year, $600 million funding gap the country said Trump’s gag rule reinstatement decision created.
Norway followed suit in February with its own $10 million pledge. Other countries that have supported the fund include Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Canada and Cape Verde, according to Reuters.