In a now familiar move, the US State Department yesterday said it would halt government funding for an HIV/AIDS program serving African and Asian refugees. Despite admitting there was no evidence linking the family planning and abortion services group Marie Stopes International (MSI) with forced abortions and sterilizations in China, State Department officials insisted the organization’s collaboration with the Chinese government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was sufficient reason for the move.
This latest incident is yet another reminder of the administration’s intimate ties with staunchly conservative groups. In April, the anti-abortion organization Population Research Institute (PRI)-founded by Human Life International, which aligns itself with the Roman Catholic Church-targeted MSI in its newsletter, accusing the group of undermining the global gag rule.
In July 2002, President Bush cut $34 million in funds for the UNFPA, insisting that the UN organization “knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China.” Bush’s decision-which defied even the advice of his own fact-finding investigative team-was made based on unsubstantiated claims that originated from PRI.
Remaining members of the seven-group Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium (International Rescue Committee, CARE, American Refugee Committee, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, John Snow International, and Columbia University’s Department of Population and Family Health), which operates the affected HIV/AIDS program, were granted $1 million in government funding for the first project year. The State Department offered continued support on the condition that members sever ties with MSI. The consortium refused the money and said it would not be strong-armed with “baseless allegations,” New York Times reported.