The Washington Post reported late last week that President George Bush will likely eliminate the $34 million appropriated by Congress for the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA). Withheld since last January because of allegations by an anti-abortion group that the UNFPA promotes forced abortions and sterilization in China, the loss of funds could lead to as many as “2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths,” according to UNFPA estimates. “It’s the women in 142 developing countries, including Afghanistan, which the White House purports to care about so much, who are going to suffer as a result of $34 million less going to prevent maternal death, infant death and abortions,” explained Susan Cohen, director of government affairs for the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
Despite a 2001 State Department report noting that the program encourages Chinese officials to “address family planning and reproductive health issues solely through the use of voluntary measures” and a letter from four House members urging Bush to release the funds, an administration adviser said senior officials “expect [the funds] to be permanently withheld,” according the Washington Post. The administration sent a 3-member team to China to investigate the claims. Although the group returned several weeks ago, the results of their investigation have yet to be released. An official announcement on Bush’s decision about the UNFPA funds is expected after the team announces its findings in mid-July.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) told the Washington Post: “We believe strongly that the programs work, that they merit US support and that we should not be so dictatorial to tell the UN not to do thatÉWe would use whatever legislative tools are available to us.” The UNFPA operates in more than 130 countries across the globe providing maternal and child health programs, family planning programs, and programs aimed at the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-AIDS.
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