Planned Parenthood launches legal action over UK aid cuts

Planned Parenthood launches legal action over UK aid cuts
People living in humanitarian crises and struggling to subsist in extreme desperate poverty will be hit

Planned Parenthood is set to launch legal action against the UK government’s decision to drastically cut the aid budget – warning women and girls hit by the changes will suffer a “bleak and uncertain future”.

The organisation, which provides abortions and other reproductive healthcare in the US and around the world, said the changes would have “catastrophic” repercussions on millions of the “most vulnerable people” around the world.

Planned Parenthood’s own funding is affected by ministers’ aid cuts as the UK’s foreign office had committed to delivering up to £21 million for their programmes which boost the sexual and reproductive health rights of the “most marginalised and under-served people” in the world.

This could rise to up to £72 million worth of funding being lost over the next three years, the charity warned.

People struggling to subsist in extreme desperate poverty, as well those living in humanitarian crises and people who have HIV and Aids, campaigners said.

It comes after the UK axed its foreign aid spending from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of national income – which amounts to an estimated £4bn – in November.

MPs voted 333 to 298, a majority of 35, in favour of slashing millions from overseas aid spending on Tuesday despite some high-profile Tory MPs voting against the measure.

Ministers have insisted the cuts are a “temporary” decision made in the context of government spending surging during the pandemic.

Planned Parenthood said that the government’s move to axe the aid budget without overhauling a piece of legislation titled the International Development Act 2015 is unlawful.

The organisation has alerted the UK government to its plans to push for an urgent judicial review of their decision back in to terminate Planned Parenthood’s funding unless the government rolls back on its choice.

Dr Alvaro Bermejo, director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said since they had learnt of the overseas aid budget cut, they have “taken every opportunity” to show the “unlawfulness” of the cuts.

He warned of the “catastrophic impact they will have on millions of women, girls and marginalised people worldwide, and the thousands of lives that will be lost in the process”.

Dr Bermejo added: ”Sadly, the government has not heeded our warnings, instead choosing to terminate the ACCESS grant.

“This means International Planned Parenthood Federation has been forced to send a pre-action letter to the secretary of state, seeking an urgent review of the decision. We were further disappointed with yesterday’s motion in the House of Commons to introduce long-lasting changes without going through due legislative process.

“International Planned Parenthood Federation has not taken this decision lightly. This action is about fighting the injustice of the government’s ruling on behalf of the women and girls we serve”.

Planned Parenthood argued a “rushed debate and vote” in parliament is not “sufficient” to change “primary legislation” on aid – adding that there must be more “parliamentary scrutiny” for a measure which ultimately places the “lives and wellbeing” of millions of women and girls around the world at risk.

The Planned Parenthood scheme impacted by the cuts provides help to people living in Lebanon, Mozambique, Uganda and Nepal.

It comes after The Independent recently reported the substantial reduction to the overseas aid budget will result in 23,500 women dying while pregnant, during childbirth or from unsafe abortions which go wrong.

MSI Reproductive Choices, a leading reproductive health charity, estimates the maternal deaths will be the result of cuts to its services, leaving an extra 6.5 million people in the most “marginalised, remote” areas not able to get the contraception they “desperately” require.

Data, shared exclusively with The Independent, shows cuts will cause an additional 2 million dangerous backstreet abortions and 7 million unintended pregnancies.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office has been contacted for comment.

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