I have received a number of emails asking me to sign an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to cut international development funding to Marie Stopes International, a non-governmental organisation that provides contraception, life-saving medicines and safe abortion around the world. I do not however sign EDMs as they are commonly known as “parliamentary graffiti” and do not achieve what they set out to.
I have always passionately believed in equality and an individual’s right to determine their own destiny, this includes the basic right of women and girls being able to choose if, when and how many children they want. I have consistently campaigned for the abortion laws in Northern Ireland to be brought in line with the rest of the UK, which is due to happen on October 21 – https://heidiallen.co.uk/belfast-high-court-rule-that-northern-irelands-abortion-law-breaches-the-uks-human-right-commitments/. I therefore welcome the news that the UK is showing international leadership on the rights of women and providing the financial resources to deliver on their ambition.
As you are aware the Secretary of State for International Development, Alok Sharma, recently announced a funding commitment of £600m for a sexual and reproductive health rights project, running from 2020 to 2025. The emails I have received regarding this funding have expressed concern that this will contribute towards funding abortions, however this is only one element of the overall aim.
Over the next five years, the UK aid support will:
- Give over 20 million women and girls access to family planning
- Prevent more than 5 million unintended pregnancies per year
- Prevent at least 1.5 million potentially-fatal unsafe abortions per year
- Save an estimated 9,000 women’s lives per year from complications in pregnancy or childbirth
The aim of the funding is to give women in developing countries, who are unable to access contraception, the ability to exercise their rights over their own body. The funding will educate women and girls about contraception, give them access to life-saving medicines in hospitals, as well as preventing unsafe abortions. The programme announced will reach women in the poorest countries across the world, including those that have been affected by humanitarian crises such as Syria, Yemen and Bangladesh.
I support government aid funding that aims to enhance the choices women have over their own bodies and their future. I am therefore pleased to see that following the cut in funding from the US government, the UK have stepped up to lead on an initiative that will save the lives of thousands of women in the most deprived countries in the world.