Legislation that will allow President Bush to withhold $34 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was approved yesterday by a House-Senate conference committee. The $28.8 billion supplemental spending bill contains language that allows Bush to withhold monies that would have been used to fund vital healthcare programs for women and children across the globe.
After signing a bill in January that allocated the funds to the UNFPA, Bush recanted in March when an extremist anti-abortion group claimed that the program supported forced abortions in China. Bush sent a three-person investigative team to China in May to investigate the allegations. The team returned in June, but Bush has refused to release its findings. State Department officials told Knight Ridder that the report concluded: “The UN program did not knowingly support coercive abortions.” “In fact, one of the officials said, the report concluded that the UN program improved women’s lives.”
In a letter to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) who has repeatedly called for release of the State Department report, UNFPA undersecretary-general Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said that loss of the $34 million promised by the US will force the agency to cut back on programs that train birth attendants in Kenya and Algeria, help prevent AIDS in Haiti and provide HIV-testing kits and equipment for safe blood transfusion in VietnamÑto name a few.
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