Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted along party lines to pass a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The vote was 23 to 17, with all 23 Republicans present voting to block US funding to UNFPA and all of the Democrats voting against the measure.
Such cuts would be detrimental to programs for women and children. According to the Huffington Post, “If the U.S were to give $50 million to the UNFPA in 2012 [it] could prevent 7,000 maternal and newborn deaths, provide surgeries to 10,000 women afflicted by an obstetric fistula, and offer contraception to about 1 million couples who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) stated, “Tragically, the bill takes aim at poor women and children in the developing world – women and children who all too often suffer from the effects of disease, war, rape, and a host of absolutely horrid conditions that few of us can even begin to imagine. Rather than helping these desperate people – as UNFPA seeks to do – the legislation makes them pawns in a debate over social issues that often seems divorced from reality.” Berman proposed 10 amendments to continue UNFPA funding for life-saving programs and programs in countries plagued by natural disasters or conflicts, including amendments that would provide funding for water and sanitation and to prevent gender based violence and female genital mutilation.
House Republicans claim that their desire to defund the UNFPA stems from the organization’s support of China’s one-child policy, which requires women obtain abortions and sterilization. However, Sarah Craven, chief of the Washington branch of the UNFPA, denied these claims, stating, “Not a dime of U.S, money goes to China, and not one dime goes to abortion.” An investigation conducted by the State Department, which found “no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization,” supports Craven’s assertion.
Statement of Howard Berman 10/5/11; Huffington Post 10/5/11