Canada will spend $650 million over the next three years to help fund sex education and reproductive health initiatives around the world, including money earmarked to fill the gap for abortion-related services left by President Donald Trump.
“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,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an announcement on Wednesday to mark International Women’s Day in Ottawa.
The fund will also focus specifically on tackling gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and providing post-abortion care.
“When women have equal power and equal weight and equal leadership influence, the kinds of decisions are better,” Trudeau continued.
The funding is a continuation of funding pledged by Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor that, controversially, did not include funding for abortion services.
The funding includes the $20 million pledged last week in Brussels by federal international development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau for an international effort to help replace cuts made by President Trump to family planning and contraception programs abroad.
One of Trump’s first moves as president was to reinstate a Reagan-era policy — dubbed the “global gag rule” — that withholds development funding for groups that provide abortion-related services.
The Dutch-led effort has so far helped fill about one third of the estimated $600-million gap.
Access to reproductive health and abortion services is “the first step to empowering women,” Minister Bibeau said in an interview. She said the new funds build on the $3.5 billion committed by the previous government as part of its international funding for maternal and newborn health. Like Trump, previous Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper was criticized for not supporting abortion-related efforts in developing countries.
Brad Trost, a socially conservative candidate for the Conservative Party leadership, has already attacked Trudeau for pledging funding for abortion services.
According to the Bibeau’s press release, the lives of an estimated 22 million women are put at risk every year due to unsafe abortion practices.
During a media conference after his announcement, Trudeau was pressed on women’s rights issues at home, including access to the abortion pill, RU-486. Although it was approved by Health Canada in 2015, numerous reports have revealed the hurdles that still exist for Canadian women looking to obtain it.
Trudeau replied that he’s confident these issues will be ironed out soon.