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Bush administration withholds $34M from U.N. Population Fund

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Bush administration will not release $34 million to a United Nations family planning fund it says provides support to China’s coercive population-control program.

The State Department announced July 22 the funds approved by Congress for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) would be withheld because it determined contributions to the organization would violate a 1985 law that 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.” The funding instead will go for population assistance through the Child Survival and Health Program Fund of the U.S. Agency for International Development, a department spokesman said.

Pro-life advocates lauded the action.

“This is great news for mothers and their unborn children,” said Shannon Royce, director of government relations for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “The United States has no business funding an organization that cooperates with a repressive regime in forcing women to have abortions and to be sterilized. We are grateful the Bush administration has taken this courageous step in the face of international opposition.”

House of Representatives Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R.-Texas., said the president’s decision “strikes a blow for human rights by acknowledging both the rights of unborn Chinese children and the women who are coerced into abortion and sterilization by the communist Chinese regime.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., praised the president for providing hope to “oppressed women” and accused the UNFPA of “supporting and whitewashing terrible crimes against humanity.”

“Tens of millions of children have been slaughtered — their mothers robbed of their children by the state,” Smith said. “The UNFPA has aggressively defended this barbaric policy that makes brothers and sisters illegal and makes women the pawns of the population-control cadres.”

The UNFPA denied the charges.

“The UNFPA has not, does not and will not ever condone or support coercive activities of any kind, anywhere,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid said. “Women and children will die because of this decision.”

Two million unwanted pregnancies and 77,000 infant and child deaths would have been prevented with the $34 million from the United States, the UNFPA said.

The State Department, however, determined the UNFPA’s work in China called for withholding U.S. funds.

“While Americans have different views on the issues of abortion, I think all agree that no woman should be forced to have an abortion,” said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. “After careful consideration of the law and all the information that’s available, including the report from the team that we sent to China in May, we came to the conclusion that the U.N. Population Fund monies go to Chinese agencies that carry out coercive programs.”

Though the UNFPA “is not knowingly involved in these programs of coercion, they support and work with agencies that are involved in that,” Boucher said at a July 22 briefing. “And it was our view that because we’re providing money to an organization that provides money to the Chinese programs, that that infringed the intent of the law and the requirements of the law.”

The UNFPA provided computers and vehicles to Chinese population-control offices, Boucher said, citing the report from the U.S. team in May. That team did not recommend withholding the funds, however.

Abortion-rights advocates, meanwhile, strongly criticized the State Department decision.

The Bush administration is using family-planning aid as a “political toy,” charged Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The decision “is further evidence that [Bush’s] alleged support for women’s rights is shallow and insincere,” Feldt said.

Last year, an independent investigation 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 in September the family planning in a UNFPA-run program was not voluntary. Coercion, in the form of not only sterilization and abortion but imprisonment and property destruction, existed in the UNFPA program, according to the report.

In December, China’s National People’s Congress placed into law a population-control policy that had been in effect for more than two decades. 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. Not only has the program resulted in coercive sterilization and abortion, but infanticide, especially of baby girls, also has been reported.

President Reagan and the first President Bush both withheld funds for UNFPA based on their findings that the agency was involved in China’s coercive program. The 1985 law that gave the White House authority to block such funding is known as the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.

The current president placed a hold several months ago on the $34 million for UNFPA while an investigation took place to determine whether to release the funds.

A July 23 letter from ERLC President Richard Land thanked Bush for “protecting women around the world, and specifically in China.”

UNFPA’s involvement in China’s program has gained notoriety for an agency that provides family planning services in 142 countries.

On the same day the State Department announced its decision about UNFPA funding, the Population Research Institute revealed the agency also was reportedly involved in coercive population control in another country. In the 1990s, the Peruvian government of former dictator Alberto Fujimori established the UNFPA as the “technical secretary” of his sterilization campaigns, according to a report by a special commission of Peru’s Congress. Peru’s National Population Program consisted of the systematic and forced sterilization of more than 100,000 women, PRI reported.