WASHINGTON (BP)–The Bush administration has declined for the sixth consecutive year to forward federal money to a controversial United Nations family planning fund linked to support of China’s coercive population control program.
Congress had designated $34 million for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), but the State Department again determined, as it has every year since 2002, that a grant to the organization would violate a 1985 law. That measure, known as the Kemp-Kasten amendment, prohibits family planning money from going to any entity that, as decided 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 family planning program for nearly three decades 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, although the national government forbids physical coercion for abortion or sterilization.
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 enforcement of the policy has varied among regions. Penalties for violations of the policy have included fines, arrests and the destruction of homes, as well as forced abortion and sterilization. Infanticide, especially of females, also has been reported.
Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in a Sept. 6 letter he had determined the “UNFPA supports the Chinese government’s program of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization” through its provision of “financial and technical resources” to Beijing’s National Population and Family Planning Commission and other agencies. Negroponte communicated his decision in a letter to Rep. David Obey, D.-Wis., chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives.
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.
“Since 2002, we have had numerous discussions with the [g]overnment of China to urge it to end its program of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization,” Negroponte wrote. “The [a]dministration has repeatedly urged UNFPA and China to restructure the UNFPA program so that it does not support or participate in the management of China’s coercive program. Despite these efforts, there has been no significant change in the circumstances of UNFPA’s involvement in China.”
Pro-life advocates hailed the decision.
“Once again, President Bush has underscored his commitment to the sanctity of all human life, beginning at conception,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a written statement, “It is appalling that congressmen insist on funding this wretched agency that abuses women. We are grateful to President Bush and his staff for confronting and correcting this error in allocating money to the anti-woman and anti-child UNFPA.”
The State Department decision was communicated on the same day the Senate voted 48-45 to restore the Kemp-Kasten amendment to the Foreign Operations spending bill. The appropriations measure had arrived on the Senate floor without the long-standing, pro-life policy. The Senate passed the overall spending legislation in an 81-12 vote.
The amendment is named after Republican Reps. Jack Kemp of New York and Robert Kasten of Wisconsin, who sponsored the measure in the mid-1980s.
As required by law, the State Department will transfer more than $22 million of the $34 million designated in this fiscal year for the UNFPA to the Child Survival and Health Programs Fund, Negroponte said. That fund is part of the United States Agency for International Development.
The UNFPA’s involvement in China’s program has produced notoriety for an agency that provides family planning assistance in more than 150 countries.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington Bureau chief for Baptist Press.