Senate Votes Support for Delivery of UNFPA Funds

Despite veto threats from President Bush, the Senate approved 71 to 22 an emergency spending bill (S 2551) last week that includes language calling on the Bush administration to disburse up to $34 million already appropriated to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) – a major supplier of modern methods of contraception in the developing world. The House of Representatives approved its version of the bill without the UNFPA language last month. The two bills must now be reconciled.

Last year, Bush froze funds for UNFPA after Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) claimed that UNFPA violates U.S. law by operating a small program in China that engages in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. The UNFPA vehemently denies these allegations Ð which are unsubstantiated to date Ð and a 2001 State Department report noted that the program instead encourages Chinese officials to “address family planning and reproductive health issues solely through the use of voluntary measures.” The Bush administration last month sent a three-member team to investigate whether UNFPA is in compliance with the “Kemp-Kasten” law, which bars US aid to family planning programs involving coercion. The team has returned, and is expected to release its findings later this month.

UNFPA operates in over 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. The UNFPA estimates that if the Bush administration manages to block the agency’s funding altogether, it 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.”

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Reuters, 6/7/02; Reuters Health, 6/5/02; PLANetWIRE.org; Office of Management and Budget Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on S. 2551, 6/4/02

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