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House committee votes to release $34M for U.N. population fund

WASHINGTON (BP)–A congressional committee vote in the middle of the night May 9 has given new hope to those urging full U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), CNSNews.com reported May 14. Strongly supported by abortion rights advocates, the U.N. agency is criticized by conservatives for allegedly promoting China’s policies of forced sterilization and abortion.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 32-31 to unfreeze $34 million that Congress had previously designated for the UNFPA but which the Bush administration had frozen. Reps. Nita Lowey, D.-N.Y., and Jim Kolbe, R.-Ariz., sponsored an amendment that was tacked onto a supplemental appropriations bill in the effort to take discretion away from the White House on the issue.

Bush froze the funds earlier this year at the urging of pro-life members of Congress who alleged that the UNFPA had helped promulgate the Chinese government’s one-child policy by coercing women into involuntary sterilizations and abortions.

The Appropriations Committee’s May 9 vote has won praise from Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

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“The loss of $34 million this past year has had a devastating impact on developing countries,” Michelman said. “In bowing to anti-choice lawmakers, the president has needlessly jeopardized the lives of millions of women around the world.”

Michelman said the UNFPA has been unfairly labeled. “For years, the UNFPA has been intentionally mischaracterized by anti-family planning lawmakers,” she said. “The program does not fund abortions; it provides voluntary reproductive healthcare and family planning services to those in dire circumstances.”

The Lowey/Kolbe amendment passed by the narrowest of margins because Rep. George Nethercutt, R.-Washington, missed the vote while en route to his daughter’s college graduation, and Rep. John Sweeney, R.-N.Y., “intentionally abstained” from the vote, according to the Family Research Council. Calls placed to Sweeney’s office were not returned.

Connie Mackey, vice president of government affairs at the Family Research Council, said pro-lifers in Congress must find a way to retain Bush’s discretion on the UNFPA funding.

“George Bush Sr. never spent the money and never funded the UNFPA. Hopefully President Bush won’t either,” Mackey said. “Hopefully this amendment can be corrected in the committee somehow.”

The Population Research Institute (PRI) has testified before Congress about its interviews with two-dozen people the group claims were victims of China’s one-child policy. The alleged victims reported “rampant and unrelenting” abuses, including forced abortions and forced sterilizations, according to the PRI.

President Bush has dispatched a three-person team from the State Department to China to investigate the claims.

PRI spokesman Scott Weinberg said the State Department team should carry back enough information to clarify the issue.

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“We’re confident that when the president looks at the evidence pouring out of China, showing UNFPA support of forced abortion and sterilization, the Congress will make the decision to defund the UNFPA,” Weinberg said. “We’re confident at the end of the day, we will come out on top.”
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Pierce is a staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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