Marie Stopes in trouble as U.S. stops funding

Marie Stopes which offers free contraception, advice on family planning, sexual health and sometimes abortion, may have to stop some of its Africa operations in June.

This is after it refused to comply with a rule reinstated by Republican President Donald Trump in January 2017.

The law bans it bans funding to any foreign NGO carrying out or offering advice on abortions anywhere.

The U.S. policy says foreign NGOs must certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in foreign countries or provide financial support to any other foreign … (NGO) that conducts such activities,” as a pre-condition for getting global family planning aid from the U.S. government.

The goal of the new policy is to please Christians who strongly oppose abortion and are a major part of Trump’s political base.

MSI and the International Planned Parenthood Federation are among only four to reject the conditions of the order. The organizations are defending themselves saying abortion is a last resort in preventing unwanted or unsafe births.

USAID says all the other 733 non profits will receive funding except for the four. MSI says the cuts mean programs affecting thousands of people in are under threat.

“All those women who’ve been receiving free contraception will have to stop using it because they can’t afford it,” said Georges Coulibaly, Marie Stopes’ Burkina Faso manager told Reuters.

The rule was first introduced by Republican President Ronald Regan in 1984. Republican presidents since have signed it while Democrat presidents disagreed with the policy and reversed it.

Seeking Other Donors

Coulibaly hopes that other donors will come in and fill in the gap left. IPPF operations are not under threat in Burkina Faso as other donors finance its projects there.

In some West African countries there are campaigns to persuade people to space up births for the sake of maternal health.

In 2011, West African governments signed up to the Ouagadougou Partnership to try to reach an extra 2 million contraceptive users by 2020.

With their funding under threat, NGOs and others are looking for ways to keep their coffers full.

On February, Tramp singled out UNFPA as the largest provider of free contraception in Africa inviting a funding ban on grounds of forced abortion in China. The agency denies it.

NGOs rely on a more varied mix of funding so closing the gap is harder. An official for the U.S. State Department, which is responsible for USAID, said if a non-profit loses its funding, it tries to help shift operations to other NGOs. That’s what MSI and IPPF are doing.

The fluctuating funding has also been a wake up call for African leaders who promised in 2015 to boost healthcare to 15 percent of government spending. Most are behind target.

“Commitments have been made, but the money has not been forthcoming,” IPPF’s Kwamboka said. “This reliance on aid from other countries…it cannot go on.”