Canada's minister for international development has spoken with her Dutch counterpart about a proposal by the Netherlands to fund abortions overseas in the wake of President Donald Trump's move to ban American funding for such services.
Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch minister of foreign trade and development co-operation, announced her desire to establish an international fund earlier this week after Trump signed an executive order that prohibits funding to international organizations that promote or perform abortion.
Previous Republican presidents have applied similar limits on American aid, but Trump's policy significantly expands on the amount of funding that could be impacted.
"We have to make up as much as possible for this financial blow, with a broad-based fund that governments, companies and civil society organizations can donate to," Ploumen said in a statement. "So that women can continue to make their own decisions about their own bodies."
Ploumen reached out to International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and the two spoke by phone on Wednesday.
According to Bibeau's office, the Dutch initiative will be considered alongside the government's other options in this area.
Bibeau's mandate letter already includes a commitment to ensuring that Canadian development aid for maternal, newborn and child health "is driven by evidence and outcomes, not ideology, including by closing existing gaps in reproductive rights and health care for women."
In an interview with The Guardian, Ploumen indicated her government was in talks with 15 to 20 countries. Belgian development minister Alexander De Croo has said his government supports the Dutch initiative.
Bibeau's office says she and Ploumen have spoken on a regular basis about sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion.
"Canada's intention is to advance a strong women empowerment agenda," Bibeau said in a statement provided by her office on Thursday. "This will include an increase in investments to support advocacy work for women's reproductive rights and for the provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion (in jurisdictions where it is legal) and post-abortion care."
The government's approach, Bibeau said, "will ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every girl and woman is treated with the dignity and respect she deserves."
"We just concluded a very successful consultation and are now in the process of reviewing Canada's global assistance to be finalized in the coming weeks. Any additional funding will be decided post budget."
Asked on Friday whether the government should contribute to the Dutch fund, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose noted the issue could be controversial and complicated in countries where abortion is not legal, but said she would leave the decision up to the government.