Members of Congress Ask Administration to Explain UNFPA Funding Cut

Four Democratic members of Congress sent a letter on Friday to US Secretary of State Colin Powell demanding an explanation of the Administration’s denial of funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Earlier this month, eight Senators wrote a letter to President Bush urging him to carefully consider “new facts and developments that reinforce the case for US funding for the United Nations Population Fund” and to “undertake a thoughtful and thorough review of this long-standing issue” before determining whether to deny the UNFPA funding.

The letter to Powell also asked for an explanation of the threats to de-fund the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). According to Kaiser, at a meeting earlier this month the administration stated that it would no longer be able to provide financial support to UNICEF because of its belief that UNCIEF would not be able to keep its funds separate from UNFPA’s funds. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-CA), one of the signatories of the letter to Powell, said, “At a time when we need the UN more than ever, the will of the right wing is getting in the way. In its continued War on Women, the Bush Administration is doing the right wing’s bidding Ð telling WHO and UNICEF whom they can meet with, whom they can include on a panel and whom they can talk to, all at risk of losing funding.”

President Bush officially withheld $34 million in funds for the UNFPA in 2002 based on unsubstantiated claims by the right-wing group Population Research International (PRI) that the UNFPA supports forced abortions in China. Despite the fact that Bush’s own handpicked investigative team found no evidence to back PRI’s claim, Bush still would not release the funds to the UNFPA, which provides crucial family planning and health services to women in many developing countries. President Bush has until July 15 to decide whether the UNFPA is in violation of the Kemp-Kasten amendment, which prohibits the US from funding agencies that are involved in coerced abortion or sterilization, reports the New York Times.

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Kaiser 6/21/04; New York Times 6/21/04; Rep. Maloney press release 6/21/04

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