BANGKOK — Trump or no Trump, Thailand’s chapter of the International Planned Parenthood Federation said it will continue to provide safe abortions, contraceptives and other reproductive health services as it has done for 40 years.
Responding to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning the U.S. from funding NGOs that refer to abortions as part of their family planning efforts, the director of the Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand said his organization is mostly funded by other sources, so any impact from the so-called “gag rule” should be minimal.
“Let me inform you that it won’t affect us at all,” Montri Pekanan said. “We are funded by the IPPF [International Planned Parenthood Federation], who is in turn supported by many developed countries, not only the United States.”
A majority of the budget for the Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand, or PPAT, is provided by domestic sources such as the government, health foundations and private donors, according to 2015 data. International aid accounts for less than a third of its total budget.
In a Jan. 23 executive order, Trump reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy, which prohibits NGOs that receive funding from the U.S. government from advocating for or counseling about abortion. A policy alternately imposed by Republican and lifted by Democrat presidents, Trump expanded it to include any health organizations, as opposed to only groups dealing with family planning in the original policy.
Reproductive health activists around the world criticized the “gag rule,” which they said could lead to even more deaths from illegal, unsafe abortions, especially in under-developed countries.
The IPPF said it chose to lose up to USD$100 million from Washington rather than change its services in light of Trump’s order, according to a report in The Guardian.
Montri said Thailand’s Planned Parenthood, which has been active since 1970, has weathered similar American policies in the past without any problem.
“What Khun Trump is doing, about not supporting abortion, it’s always been the main policy of the Republican Party. Whoever rises to power, they reduce funding for it,” he said. “It has not ever affected us, in term of policy or money. It didn’t make us short on money.”
He added, “So to put it in summary, we don’t care about Trump or the Republican Party.”
Montri also stressed that the PPAT’s mission extends far beyond abortion. He said the group’s primary tasks are handing out contraceptives, providing counseling on safe sex, and educating school students about teenage pregnancy.
Under Thai law, doctors are allowed to perform abortion if the woman requesting it is deemed to suffer physical or mental problems, such as stress, from the pregnancy. The operation is performed in both state hospitals and private clinics such as those run by the PPAT, though health authorities generally do not openly discuss it.
U.S. Money Not Game Changer
Of the 51.6 million baht in funding it received in 2015 – the latest year of available data – about half, or 23 million baht, was from domestic organizations such as the National Health Security Office, Thai Health Foundation and private donors, while the government contributed 200,000 baht.
IPPF provided funds of 13.6 million baht while the rest, or about 23.2 million baht, comes from international donors like the International Labour Organization, United Nations and foreign governments.
A spokesman for the PPAT did not respond to an inquiry about specific amount it receives from the U.S. government, but director Montri said the organization has “barely received” any funding from the Americans in recent years.
“Thailand in the eyes of America is a country that has moderately developed,” Montri said. “So aid from the United States has almost dried up for many years now.”
A spokesman for the United States Agency for International Development, which is the largest donor of global health efforts, said the agency is still looking into the details of Trump’s executive order.
“USAID is currently reviewing the Presidential Memorandum, and we are consulting with the Departments of State and other agencies regarding its implementation” Sam Ostrander said in an email on Feb. 7.