President Bush announced on Friday that he is withholding the $34 million Congress had allotted for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. This is the fifth year President Bush has withdrawn funding from UNFPA Ñ a total of $161 million dollars lost in funding. UNFPA provides services to over 140 struggling nations, territories, and areas, funding programs to lower infant and maternal mortality, stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease, increase access to contraceptive services, and decrease incidence of obstetric fistula.
President Bush has withheld funding for UNFPA since 2001, after spurious claims that funding was going towards forced abortions and sterilizations in China. The claim was proven false by a Department of State investigation in 2001, though President Bush still uses the claim to withhold funding from UNFPA. The $34 million could have prevented 385,000 infant and child deaths, 27,000 maternal deaths, and four million induced abortions, or funded contraceptives to prevent 12 million unwanted pregnancies, according to PlanetWire.
“This is the 5th year in a row that this administration has listened to its far right constituency at the expense of the world’s neediest women and children É It’s another in a series of actions that pander to the base while severely impacting women’s health. The administration didn’t let facts get in the way of its decision, and women suffer,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “ÉThe Bush administration is playing politics at the expense of providing women with the means to take control of their health, their families and their lives,” said Dr. Lawrence Smith, Jr., president of the Population Institute, in a statement about the withdrawal of funding.