Delegates from more than 50 countries gathered Thursday in Brussels to find ways to plug the funding gap resulting from President Donald Trump's order barring aid to international organizations that discuss abortion as a family-planning option.
The full financial impact of the executive order signed in January is still unclear, but the US government's international assistance for family planning and reproductive health programmes has amounted to around 600 million dollars annually in recent years.
"A purely ideological decision of one country put millions of women into the dark ages," said Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.
The conference is named "She Decides," based on a crowdfunding initiative of the same name by Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch minister of foreign trade and development cooperation, who is looking to raise money for affected aid groups.
"We stand tall for women and girls to be the master of their own life and body," Ploumen said at the opening of the conference.
The Dutch, Danish and Belgium government have each pledged 10 million euros (10.5 million dollars) toward the fund, while the Finnish government has pledged 20 million euros and the Swedish government 21 million euros.
The conference is also attended by delegates from Asia and Africa, among them health ministers from Chad and Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Health Minister Yifru Berhan Mitke, a gynaecologist and obstetrician himself, said that liberalizing abortion laws in his country has led to "a dramatic drop of maternal deaths and diseases, as well as unwanted pregnancies."
Similar funding bans have occurred under previous Republican presidents. The executive order prohibits funding to foreign organizations not only if they provide abortions, but also if their family planning includes abortion counselling or referral.