U.S. Foreign Assistance

Bush Administration Takes Parting Shot at International Family Planning Organizations

You may have heard that the Bush administration is once again withholding funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  Because UNFPA provides funding for health services — including voluntary family planning — in China, where the government maintains a “one-child policy,” the Bush administration decided Thursday to unjustly withhold U.S. funding to UNFPA, as it has for the last seven years. That’s no surprise (and it’s barely even news-worthy), though it is disappointing.  Contrary to the administration’s assertions, UNFPA provides alternative and voluntary approaches to China’s compulsory family planning program.
 
But you may have missed the potentially even bigger news.  Now the Bush administration has threatened to dramatically expand the interpretation of the Kemp-Kasten amendment, which until now has been limited only to UNFPA, to also cut off funding to other organizations solely because they operate health programs in China. Buried in the statement released by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is the following ominous warning:

During the course of our evaluation of UNFPA’s work,
we learned of other organizations that conduct activities in China. 
The relevant funding agencies are conducting a comprehensive analysis
to determine what appropriate and lawful actions can be taken.


UNFPA, as well as other organizations working in China, have sought to play a positive role
in helping to reform the Chinese government’s program and to end the
occurrence of human rights abuses by promoting the replacement of
compulsory birth control with good counseling and informed consent, a
greater range of contraceptive method choice, and higher quality
services.  Losing all of their U.S. funding for the rest of their
important programs in a multitude of other countries around the world
would be the reward that organizations may get for trying to be part of
the solution in China.

Why is it that the organizations that are
making a difference in the lives of women and their families are being
singled out again by the Bush administration in order to make its own
political point? As Amy Coen, PAI’s President/CEO, has said, “When the
issue involves family planning, the White House will always look for
new ways to satiate the voracious appetite of its right-wing political
constituency.” Political posturing should not endanger women’s lives.

Opponents
of family planning and reproductive health programs argue that the U.S.
government—and U.S. taxpayers—should have no “complicity” in Chinese
government population practices. Few, if any, disagree. And, in fact,
all of the activities of UNFPA and the targeted organizations that work
in China are based upon voluntarism and respect for human rights and
are supported with funds provided by other donors – public and
private.   But does the argument withstand scrutiny for consistency and
an absence of hypocrisy?  The answer is a resounding no.

There
are a number of examples of other multilateral institutions, U.S.
government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations that partner
with the Chinese government in the health sector, including those
Chinese governmental institutions judged by the State Department to be
guilty under the terms of the Kemp-Kasten amendment to have
“support[ed] or participate[d] in the management of a program of
coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

Opponents of
contraception inside and outside the Bush administration believe that
any financial relationship with the Chinese government somehow
indirectly supports coercive practices. The real agenda is clear:
funding for these groups is being threatened in pursuit of an
ideological agenda that stands transparently in opposition to
contraception for poor women around the world and in pursuit of a
misguided vendetta against these indispensable organizations.

UNFPA provides international leadership on population issues
and is a key source of financial assistance for voluntary family
planning and reproductive health programs in poor countries. UNFPA
works in more than 150 countries, providing life-saving maternal and
child health care, HIV/AIDS prevention services, and emergency care for
pregnant women in conflict and disaster situations. Restoring U.S.
funding for UNFPA programs is crucial to improving the health and lives
of women and their families and to addressing demographic trends and
promoting sustainable development – and should be one of the first
actions of the next President.

Originally published at RH Reality Check.

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