NEW YORK — The U.S. State Department announced on April 3 that it would defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) because of its support for forced abortion and sterilization in China.
UNFPA is an entity that has lost funding under several U.S. presidencies. It lost funding under President George W. Bush, regained funding under President Barack Obama, and it has now lost it again under President Donald Trump.
The move ends $32.5 million in funds for the 2017 fiscal year. The money will instead go to the State Department’s Global Health Programs fund. Those moneys are used by the U.S. Agency for International Development to support family planning and maternal and reproductive health.
UNFPA immediately denied any wrongdoing in China in a press statement: “UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination. Indeed, United Nations member states have long described UNFPA’s work in China as a force for good.”
Pro-life activists, who are experts on the situation in China, strongly disagree.
“This is a pretty nasty agency, which is the No. 1 purveyor for the U.N. of promoting abortion around the world,” said Austin Ruse, president of C-Fam (Center for Family and Human Rights), which monitors U.N. activities. “They are one of the most wicked agencies at the U.N. UNFPA poisoned the whole UN system with ‘reproductive rights’ and that includes UNICEF.”
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI), agreed, calling UNFPA “the notorious U.N. agency that has been the chief international cheerleader for, and financial supporter of, China’s repressive ‘planned birth’ policies from their beginning.”
Mosher was the first American to go into China in 1979 to do research on the country’s population program. He witnessed and documented barbaric episodes of Chinese government officials forcing women to undergo abortions. PRI went on to conduct several on-the-ground investigations in China that exposed numerous human-right abuses under the one-child policy and provided the impetus for the Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations to cut U.S. funding to UNFPA.
“Under Bush 43, for instance, PRI reports led the U.S. State Department to conduct its own investigation, which confirmed PRI’s findings, namely, that the ‘one-child policy’ was just as rigorously enforced in Chinese counties where the UNFPA was in charge as elsewhere in China,” said Mosher. “The UNFPA was not a force for moderation in China, but was aiding and abetting the Chinese government’s enforcement of the policy.”
China’s Record of Abuses
China instituted its “one-child policy” in 1979, which according to Chinese government statistics has resulted in: 336 million abortions, 196 million sterilizations and 403 million implantations of intrauterine devices (IUDs). Since January 2016, China has modified this policy to a “two-child policy.”
The defunding of UNFPA was based on the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which “prohibits funding for any organization or program that, as determined by the president, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
According to testimony given in 2009 at the U.S. Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Chinese provinces are often given quotas on abortions and sterilizations.
“It comes down to the city and town level,” said Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a women’s rights group focused on stopping forced abortions and sterilizations in China. “They will go after each town to meet their quota for abortions or sterilizations so that the town can be promoted or demoted.”
Towns that meet their quotas are given more money by the Chinese government and given a higher municipal status.
“Meanwhile, women are subjected to pregnancy tests up to four times a year in certain areas,” said Littlejohn. “Couples are now allowed two children, but single moms are still forced to abort or get sterilized. If you want to keep your child, you are told to pay a fine, which is 10 times your annual salary.”
In some areas, women are put into jail if found to be pregnant without a pregnancy permit. Family members may be jailed and beaten until pregnant women decide to abort. In other cases, the family-planning police destroy or damage the homes of family members for illegal pregnancies.
All of these human-rights abuses are well-documented in the book The Barefoot Lawyer by blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.
Other atrocities that have been documented by Littlejohn’s group are cases of women being forced to abort well into the third trimester. Some women have been forced to abort at nine months and have died along with their full-term children. Forced sterilizations have left women disabled.
In April of 2010, officials in Puning city set out to sterilize 9,550 people. Those who refused were detained.
In 2012, a woman named Feng Jianmei was forced to have an abortion in Zhenping County, Shaanxi, China, when she was seven months pregnant with her second child. Officials demanded that she and her husband pay a fine of 40,000 yuan, which they did not have. Feng was arrested and forced to have an abortion. When her stillborn child was born, her family posted graphic pictures of Feng lying next to her dead baby. The images became a viral sensation on the internet.
Why Is UNFPA Silent?
What bothers many pro-life activists is that UNFPA is constantly claiming to support a world where “every pregnancy is wanted.” The UNFPA website states that “individuals should have the right and the means to freely decide when or if to start a family and how many children to bear.”
But this is clearly not happening in China, and UNFPA has never denounced it.
“They must answer for their silence,” said Littlejohn. “UNFPA may not be performing abortions directly, but they are giving funding for the management of population-control policies in China which are coercive,” said Littlejohn.
Responding by email to an email question from the Register about whether the U.N. agency has ever denounced China’s coercive population-control program, UNFPA spokesman Omar Gharzeddine replied, “UNFPA has urged an end to the ‘one-child practice.’”
Gharzeddine declined to respond directly to a question asking if China has in fact engaged in forced abortions and sterilizations in connection with its one-child and two-child policies.
“UNFPA works in all countries to promote the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination,” the UNFPA spokesman commented in response to that question. “Throughout the world, UNFPA fights to protect women from coercive family planning and forced abortion.”
Though UNFPA has lost its U.S. funding, the reality is that it will find other ways to replace the lost revenue.
“The problem with UNFPA losing their U.S. funding is that they will replace that money easily with money from Scandinavia and the European Union. The first time they were defunded, they were a $250-million agency. They ended up raising $750 million from other sources,” said Ruse.
Though pro-lifers applaud President Trump for defunding UNFPA, Ruse caution that his actions cannot stop there.
“This was an easy thing. It cannot be the last,” said Ruse. “Larger things that he must do is un-sign several U.N. treaties — like CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination on Women) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These are bad U.N. documents which are used to advance bad social policies. CEDAW has been used to promote a right to an abortion.”
Register correspondent Sabrina Arena Ferrisi writes from New York.
Catholic News Agency contributed to this report.