Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a letter to Congress today stating that the United States will not fund the UNFPA for 2004. According to a press statement issued by the State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher, “This decision means that this organization (UNFPA) will not receive the $34 million earmarked for its activities by Congress for the current fiscal year.”
“Today, the President once again chose ideology over women’s health and rights by denying funding to UNFPA,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “This decision means that for the third year in a row, women in nearly 140 countries around the world will pay a price for the president’s decision to appeal to his domestic base.”
The Kemp-Kasten Amendment prohibits the US from funding agencies that are involved in coerced abortion or sterilization. The Kemp-Kasten restrictions were first applied to the UNFPA in 2002 when 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. Even though President Bush sent his own handpicked investigative team that found no evidence to back PRI’s claim, he has blocked desperately needed funding for the UNFPA for three years.
The yearly US contribution to the UNFPA makes up 13 percent of the total funding for its international family planning programs – enabling UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death each year.