Melinda French Gates Is Now Funding Reproductive Rights Initiatives

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates announced Tuesday that over the next two years, her charity will dole out $1 billion to initiatives focused on women, including those working to protect reproductive rights in the United States.

The news, which French Gates revealed in a New York Times essay, comes a week before she’s scheduled to step away from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropy she started with her now-ex-husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, in 2000.

The contributions are a direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which wiped out abortion access for millions of Americans, she said.

“While I have long focused on improving contraceptive access overseas, in the post-Dobbs era, I now feel compelled to support reproductive rights here at home,” French Gates wrote. “For too long, a lack of money has forced organizations fighting for women’s rights into a defensive posture while the enemies of progress play offense. I want to help even the match.”

Melinda French Gates speaks at the Empowering Women as Entrepreneurs and Leaders forum at a global banking meeting on April 13, 2023, in Washington. French Gates says she will donate $1 billion over the next two years to individuals and organizations working on behalf of women and families globally, including on reproductive rights in the United States.

Funding will come through Pivotal Ventures, the philanthropy she launched in 2015.

“As shocking as it is to contemplate, my 1-year-old granddaughter may grow up with fewer rights than I had,” French Gates wrote in her essay.

The National Women’s Law Center and the Center for Reproductive Rights ― two groups fighting the GOP’s effort to wipe out abortion access ― are among the recipients of some of that $1 billion so far, French Gates said Tuesday.

The 19th, a news outlet focused on gender and politics, said Tuesday they’d also received a multimillion-dollar grant from French Gates’ charity.

“Sometimes dreams do come true,” Emily Ramshaw, the news outlet’s co-founder and CEO, said in her announcement.

Melinda French Gates never mentions abortion directly in her New York Times essay, but she’s previously shared much more conservative views.

″[W]hen I get asked about my views on abortion, I say that, like everyone, I struggle with the issue, but I’ve decided not to engage on it publicly — and the Gates Foundation has decided not to fund abortion,” French Gates, who was raised Catholic, wrote in a 2014 blog post that no longer appears to be live on the Gates Foundation website.

Excerpts from the blog post appear in a Daily Beast story from the time.

″[I]n the United States and around the world the emotional and personal debate about abortion is threatening to get in the way of the lifesaving consensus regarding basic family planning,” she wrote in 2014, saying funding contraception initiatives was a better path.