House Foreign Operations appropriations subcommittee chair Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) urged President Bush to begin spending the $34 million Congress slated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and cautioned him that if funds were not spent, “There would be consequences.” Kolbe and his counterpart in the Senate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), emphasized that funding UNFPA was, according to Kolbe, “clearly the intent” of Congress. President Bush put a temporary hold on the UNFPA funds after intense pressure from anti-abortion members of Congress led by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus. Smith claims that the UNFPA “has been the willing Ôenabler’ of massive human rights violations” in China and is complicit in oppressing women in the country by supporting forced abortion and sterilization. The UNFPA has denied that it funds any programs that perform 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. Notably, Smith is attempting to block all UNFPA funding and is not specifically targeting funds that would be funneled into China.