WASHINGTON (BP)–The Bush administration has refused for the fourth consecutive year to forward money to a controversial United Nations family planning fund linked to support of China’s coercive population control program.
The State Department announced that $34 million designated by Congress for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) would be withheld this year. As it has each year since 2002, the department determined that contributions to the organization would violate the 1985 Kemp-Kasten amendment, which prohibits family planning money from going to any entity that, as determined by the president, “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
Officials in many parts of China have practiced a forced population control program for about 25 years in an attempt to curb the birth rate in the world’s most populous country. A law codifying the policy throughout China went into effect in 2002.
The policy limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Other exceptions have been made in some provinces, and the enforcement of the policy has varied among provinces. The program has been marked by coercive sterilization and abortion, but infanticide, especially of females, also has been reported.
The UNFPA has denied charges it supports coercive programs, but a State Department investigative team in 2002 reported the UNFPA provided computers and vehicles to Chinese population-control offices, a State Department spokesman said at the time. That team did not recommend withholding the funds, however.
Since 2002, “we have continuously called on China to end its program of coercive abortion,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a written statement Sept. 17. “We have also repeatedly urged China and the U.N. Population Fund to restructure the organization’s programs in a way that would allow the United States to provide funding. … [S]ince no key changes have taken place, these restrictions are being applied again.”
The UNFPA continued to deny it participates in a coercive program.
“This decision is disheartening because it contradicts clear evidence that UNFPA works hard to end coercion by proving the efficacy and superiority of the voluntary approach to family planning over any other alternative,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said in a written release.
An independent team from Great Britain and an interfaith religious panel have reported the UNFPA has opposed coercive practices in China, according to the agency.
An independent investigation in 2001, however, provided evidence the UNFPA was helping in China’s program. A team from the Population Research Institute, an American pro-life organization, reported witnesses told it the family planning in a UNFPA-run program was involuntary. Coercion, in the form of not only sterilization and abortion but imprisonment and property destruction, existed in the UNFPA program, according to the report.
Pro-lifers applauded the latest refusal to fund the UNFPA.
“Our president and our country are standing with the oppressed by refusing to cooperate with their oppressor,” Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., said in a written statement. “The United States will not fund the brutal and oppressive Chinese government’s lapdogs.
“The international community should be appalled that UNFPA spends more time and energy demonizing the U.S. for providing funding to other organizations than it does in criticizing the murderous Chinese population control program,” Smith said.
Karen Pearl, interim president of the abortion-rights organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America, criticized Bush, saying he had “put ideology at the forefront.” PPFA is “firmly against coercion,” she said, adding the UNFPA does not support forced abortion and sterilization.
The Beijing government announced Sept. 19 it had fired some officials in the eastern city of Linyi for abusing the population control policy, The Washington Post reported. The government, however, did not specify what crimes were committed. Beijing also did not comment on the Sept. 6 detention and eventual house arrest of Chen Guangcheng, 34, a blind resident of Linyi who has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city’s officials for forcing women to have abortions and sterilizations, according to The Post.
UNFPA’s involvement in China’s program has produced notoriety for an agency that provides family planning services in more than 140 countries.