Bush Administration Withholds $34M for UNFPA; Group’s Work in China Cited
The Bush administration on Friday said that for the third consecutive year it would withhold $34 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund, saying that the organization "indirectly" supports coerced abortions in China, the Los Angeles Times reports (Richter, Los Angeles Times, 7/17). The Bush administration in its decision cited the Kemp-Kasten law, which requires funding to be blocked for agencies if the president determines that a group "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization," according to the New York Times. UNFPA has spent approximately $3.5 million in the past year for a pilot program in China to educate Chinese women about HIV transmission and contraception, according to the Times (Marquis, New York Times, 7/17).
History of Blocked Funding
Bush has blocked funding to UNFPA every year since he has taken office. The administration's current policy -- originally implemented by President Reagan at a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, removed by President Clinton and reinstated by Bush during the first days of his presidency -- bars U.S. money from international groups that support abortion, even with their own money, through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities. Bush in September 2003 issued an executive order that prevents the State Department from giving family planning grants to international groups that provide abortion-related counseling, effectively extending the so-called "Mexico City" policy, which previously applied only to USAID. The Senate in January approved 65-28 an omnibus spending bill (HR 2673) -- approved by the House in December 2003 -- which included $34 million for UNFPA (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 7/12). Bush's executive order banning funding for international family planning groups that counsel on abortion exempts agencies in countries covered under his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Bush said that even if such groups promoted family planning or provided abortion services, they could still receive funds under the initiative if they used them to treat people with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/5/04).
UNFPA said that the funding is "urgently needed" to slow the spread of HIV and could prevent as many as two million unintended pregnancies, 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths in many countries (Agence France-Presse, 7/16). "This demonstrates once again the isolation of the United States in confronting the global crisis in women's health, compounding the intense and fully deserved criticism of its abstinence-only approach to AIDS prevention that it recently received at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok," Carmen Barroso, director of International Planned Parenthood's Western Hemisphere Region, said (IPPF release, 7/16). Former Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), who is president of the United Nations Foundation, said that the decision is a disappointment to anyone who cares about women's health, maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS prevention (Detroit Free Press, 7/17). However, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said that the Bush administration is still committed to improving women's reproductive health through other programs, including PEPFAR (Agence France-Presse, 7/16).
ABCNews' "World News Tonight" on Saturday reported on efforts by Lois Abraham and Jane Roberts, co-founders of 34 Million Friends of UNFPA, a grassroots fundraising effort to replace the U.S. funding ("World News Tonight," ABCNews, 7/17). A video excerpt of the segment is available online in RealPlayer.