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House panel rejects restoring aid to U.N. family planning fund

WASHINGTON (BP)–A House of Representatives committee has rejected an attempt to restore aid to a controversial United Nations family planning fund linked to support of China’s coercive population control program.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 32-26 against an amendment that would have provided $25 million for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). Rep. Nita Lowey, D.-N.Y., offered the amendment to the 2005 foreign operations spending bill.

It marked the second consecutive year the House has turned back an effort to fund UNFPA. Last year, the House stripped funding for the entity from an authorization bill in a 216-211 floor vote.

The Bush administration has refused to provide funding for UNFPA, and Lowey’s amendment was an attempt to overcome that opposition. Two years ago, the Bush administration refused to release $34 million approved by Congress for UNFPA because it determined contributions to the organization would violate the Kemp-Kasten amendment, a 1985 measure that bars 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.”

Pro-life advocates commended the committee’s July 9 action.

Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he was “very encouraged” by the decision. “It is disconcerting, however, that 26 members of the committee considered the UNFPA to be an acceptable recipient of $25 million from taxpayers.

“I wonder if they would have been quite so eager to support UNFPA if it were their wives or daughters who were going to be victimized by the Chinese government’s barbaric population control program,” Duke said. “Somehow, I think these committee members would have suddenly become more humane in that situation. I am grateful that the majority of the committee chose to do to others what they would have done to them. U.S. taxpayer dollars should be used to support life and programs that honor life.”

Cathy Cleaver Ruse, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the vote a “victory for women and children around the world, and for the U.S. taxpayer. As long as UNFPA supports these barbaric policies imposed on families, it must remain ineligible for U.S. funding, period.”

Lowey’s amendment would have earmarked funds to UNFPA for six countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan and Tanzania. In addition to funding an agency that evidently cooperates with a coercive population control program, the measure would not have prevented UNFPA from moving funds it had designated for those countries to its work in China.

The UNFPA has denied charges it supports coercive population control, but the State Department determined in 2002 the agency’s work in China called for withholding U.S. funds. The UNFPA provided computers and vehicles to Chinese population-control offices, a State Department spokesman said, citing a report from a U.S. team earlier in 2002. That team did not recommend withholding the funds, however.

An independent investigation in 2001 provided evidence the UNFPA was helping in China’s program. A team from the Population Research Institute, an American pro-life organization, cited witnesses who had described the family planning in a UNFPA-run program as 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.

A law codifying the population control 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. Not only has the program resulted in coercive sterilization and abortion, but infanticide, especially of baby girls, also has been reported.

UNFPA’s involvement in China’s program has produced notoriety for an agency that provides family planning services in more than 140 countries.