Earlier this week, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) along with 21 of her Senate colleagues sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to maintain support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
UNFPA, which promotes maternal and reproductive health, conducts major demographic surveys, and campaigns against fistula and female genital mutilation, supports programs in over 150 countries. The United States restored its funding for UNFPA under President Obama in 2009. Previous US presidents withheld funding surrounding accusations that the fund promoted abortions and forced sterilization procedures. UNFPA maintains that it does not provide abortion services and condemns any coercion.
The United States has been instrumental in the funding of UNFPA; the US played a key role in its founding in 1969. In the ’70s, the US was UNFPA’s largest contributor. However the Kemp-Kasten Amendment of 1985 – which stops US funding for any international organization that the president decides supports coercive abortions or sterilization procedures – cut off US funding to UNFPA until the Clinton administration. Funds were held off again by President Bush in the early 2000s.
Sen. Boxer’s request to President Obama thanks him for his commitment to reproductive health worldwide, but asks him not to back down.
“We are disappointed that despite UNFPA’s critical work around the world, a number of misperceptions about the organization persist,” the letter to President Obama reads. “That is why we believe it is important to underscore that UNFPA does not promote abortion as a method of family planning and does not condone coercion in family planning, coercive abortion or forced sterilizations.”
The letter highlights some of UNFPA’s work – distributing family planning information, programs to empower young women in countries where child marriage is common, fighting the spread of Ebola, and helping stop gender-based violence in areas with large numbers of refugees.
The letter is co-signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), Al Franken (D-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Media Resources: Sen. Boxer Press Release 1/27/2015; UNFPA