NEW YORK — The U.S. State Department has released a report accusing the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) of funding forced abortion and sterilization programs worldwide.

The March 31 report says that forced abortion and sterilization policies exist in the 32 counties where the Population Fund has operations. And the report states that, despite the organization's claims to the contrary, its involvement in China's abusive programs is sufficient to deny the organization U.S. government funds under federal law.

The provisions of the Cairo Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development prohibit the United Nations from supporting forced abortion and sterilization programs.

Evidence provided by State Department investigators shows that abuses also include the leveling of so-called social compensation fees for families having a child without government approval. These “social compensation fees” are fines amounting to several times a family's yearly earnings. The report calls these fines “draconian.”

According to the report, “additional disciplinary measures against those who violated the limited-child policy by having an unapproved child or helping another to do so included the withholding of social services, higher tuition costs when the child goes to school, job loss or demotion, loss of promotion opportunity for one or more years, expulsion from the Party [membership in which was an unofficial requirement for certain jobs] and other administrative punishments, including in some cases the destruction of property.”

As a result of these findings it was determined that funding the U.N. Population Fund would be in violation of federal law specifying that no U.S. government funds be used in a program that “supports or participates in the management of a coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

An official of the U.S. State Department told the Register, “Our position is that UNFPA's assistance to the Chinese birth-limitation program amounts to support or participation of their program, and the program is coercive; therefore we cannot provide funding for the UNFPA.”

The Fund's Silence

Contacted for comment, U.N. Population Fund spokesman William Ryan said he had not seen the State Department report. He did not answer an offer by the Register to e-mail him a copy to review.

During a follow-up call, Ryan said, “No, my position hasn't changed.” Asked if he would specify what his position was, he replied “No” and hung up.

Finally, the Register reached another U.N. Population Fund spokesman, Abubakar Dungus, who refused to make any statement other than to refer to a July 22, 2002, press release posted on the fund's Web site. The press release contains quotes and a link to a statement released on the same date by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund and concurrently U.N. under-secretary-general.

Obaid's statement, quoting from the initial findings of the State Department assessment team, defended the fund's record.

He said the loss of U.S. funding to the organization “is especially troubling since the fact-finding mission that was sent to China by the United States found, quote, ‘No evidence that UNFPA has supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China,’ as has been charged by critics. This is contained in the report dated May 29, 2002, addressed to Secretary of State Colin Powell.”

However, the actual quote from the May 29 State Department letter states: “We find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC [People's Republic of China]” (emphasis added).

As well, Obaid failed to mention the investigators’ statement just seven lines later: “We therefore recommend that unless and until all forms of coercion in [Chinese] law and in practice are eliminated, no U.S. government funds be allocated for population programs in [China].”

As well, a team of independent journalists reporting in March for Radio Free Asia in Korla City, located in one of the Chinese counties where the U.N. Population Fund operates, interviewed family-planning officials and local citizens who said human-rights abuses in the name of family planning were taking place (see sidebar).

‘Liars’

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a pro-family U.N. watchdog group, was blunt about the U.N. Population Fund's claim: “They are liars,” he said.

The fund “says a number of different things,” Ruse continued. “At one point they'll say coercion doesn't exist or that coercion is not occurring where they are operating. They just deny that coercion happens. They have enough countries that are more or less indebted to them that no widespread move against UNFPA is really possible until more governments get involved in these types of investigations, such as [the one] the United States just conducted.”

According to an April 17 weekly news briefing from the pro-life Population Research Institute, new evidence has emerged that the U.N. Population Fund's denials are not only false but “impossible,” in the words of one Chinese official.

“China has passed a new law enforcing family planning and birth limitations,” the Population Research Institute briefing stated. “In regions in China where UNFPA operates, local statutes are being implemented to strengthen the central government's strangle-hold on reproductive freedom.”

“UNFPA supports these projects with funding, surgical and technical support,” the institute briefing added. “It also provides free public-relations services to the Chinese government by claiming that reform is taking place in China.”

John Mallon is contributing editor ofInside the Vatican magazine.