President Bush placed a temporary hold on $34 million intended for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as part of a foreign aid appropriations bill the President signed last Thursday. Anti-abortion forces led in Congress by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) have urged Bush to place a hold on the aid claiming UNFPA has condoned forced abortion and sterilization in China. UNFPA has denied that it funds any programs carrying out forced procedures. UN officials have criticized the Bush hold saying that it could deny thousands of women worldwide vital family planning services. Without U.S. funding, UNFPA estimates that its ability to prevent 800,000 abortions and the deaths of 4,700 mothers and 77,000 children under the age of five will be severely compromised.
Members of Congress have called on the President to release the funds to UNFPA. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called the hold “against the will of Congress, against the written support of [Secretary of State Colin] Powell, and against the crucial needs of millions of women and children around the world.” Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) voiced similar concerns in a letter to the President. Kirk also implied that funding UNFPA and international family planning programs was in the best interest of the U.S. as it promoted long-term stability of other nations. Rep. Nina Lowey (D-NY) threatened to put the hold to a vote this year.