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Sweden cuts off foreign aid to groups that do not provide information about abortion

(Wikimedia Commons/Vgrigas)Abortion Quick & Pain Free sign, Joe Slovo Park, Cape Town, South Africa

The Swedish government has announced that it is withdrawing foreign aid from groups that comply with the Mexico Policy, which demands that non-government organizations funded by the U.S. do not provide information about abortion.

Sweden was one of the several countries that sharply criticized the decision to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which restricts U.S. funding for international healthcare providers that promote or perform abortions.

The policy, dubbed by abortion proponents as a "gag rule," was created in 1984 by former President Ronald Reagan, but it was rescinded under the administration of Bill Clinton. It was restored under the administration of George W. Bush but rescinded again under former President Barack Obama. The policy was reinstated and strengthened by President Donald Trump within days of taking office in January.

On Tuesday, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) stated that it would freeze sexual and reproductive health aid to organizations that adhere to the rule.

"This is about women's own right to decide when, and if, they want to have children and how many children they want. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are a prerequisite for being able to attend school and being active on the labour market," SIDA Director-General Carin Jämtin said in a statement, as reported by The Local.

A spokesperson said that it is too early to tell how many will be affected by the decision, but the agency has launched a review of its partner organizations and the aid they receive.

"We are now starting a review of which of our organizations receive SRHR support and where they stand in relation to the Mexico City Policy. Only then will we know. The only ones we know of today that have such support and have agreed to the MCP is Save the Children," said Press Officer Fredrik Sperling.

Jämtin clarified that development aid for things like food and water will not be affected by the decision, but there was a risk that it could affect Sweden's aid to programs related to malaria and HIV prevention.

SIDA announced that it will provide an additional aid of 170 million kronor ($20.17 million) to groups that are still working in the areas of sexual health, contraception, abortion and maternity care.

Jämtin said that similar talks with the Netherlands, Canada, Luxembourg, the U.K., and other Nordic countries have taken place, and she is hoping that other nations would follow Sweden's lead.

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