Bush Urged to Halt UNFPA Funding Over Coercive Policies
WASHINGTON — Pro-life activists are pressuring the White House to end all U.S. funding of the United Nation's Population Fund, known as UNFPA, after an investigation found the U.N. agency was complicit in rampant forced abortions in China.
“We sent a team of investigators into China,” said Steve Mosher, president of the Virginia-based Population Research Institute, which released its report in September. “We interviewed women who were forced to abort their children. One woman went into hiding and nine of her relatives were held in jail for four months.”
When Mosher's disclosures first surfaced early last fall, the appropriations process was well under way. The Senate voted quickly to increase funding to the U.N. agency to $39 million, up from last year's $25 million. The president's budget recommended spending the same as last year's budget. The House sided with the president's figure, but after a compromise with the Senate, the agreed-upon figure rose to $34 million.
But even though the appropriations process was well advanced, the House International Relations Committee opened up hearings in October into UNFPA practices in China.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., vice chairman of the committee, said, “Chinese population cadres conduct nighttime raids on couples suspected of having unauthorized children, and they keep detailed records on the sexual activity of every woman in their jurisdiction — so much for privacy. And to make the coercive regime complete, the ‘family planning centers’ have prison cells — with bars — to detain those who resist forced abortion or sterilization.”
Smith continued, “I think it is appropriate and necessary that today this committee, the Congress and the president revisit the issue of forced abortion in China to determine what has changed, if anything. We also must reevaluate our support of the United Nations Population Fund in the context of whether or not they support this most terrible human-rights abuse.”
Mosher is now teaming up with other pro-life activists on a campaign to encourage Bush to eliminate all funding. The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (a pro-life U.N. lobby) and the House Pro-life Caucus have joined the campaign.
“Thirty-four million dollars is a ceiling — [Bush] doesn't have to spend any of this,” said Mosher. “Bush can invoke Kemp-Kasten Amendment. It forbids any U.S. money from subsidizing an agency that supports a regime that has forced abortions.”
In 1986, Mosher noted, President Ronald Reagan cut off all funding to UNFPA. (Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, continued Reagan's policy until Bill Clinton became president in 1993.)
“We have some indication that [Bush] might do that. They have seen our report and we have heard that he might do the right thing,” said Mosher.
According to UNFPA's Web site, the U.N. agency is currently funding a $20 million “country program,” begun in 1998, in conjunction with China's official population control program.
In response to the allegations made by the Population Research Institute, UNFPA sent its own investigative team to China, and then filed a report exonerating itself from any participation in coercive abortions or sterilizations.
In the report, UNFPA stated, “The team asked every official and reproductive health and family planning service provider it met during its visit if they knew of any such abuses. None did.”
The report continued, “The team also asked these officials and practitioners if such abuses were possible. They all said yes, such abuses were possible, but those responsible for them would be punished in accordance with the severity of the abuse in that Chinese law now specifically forbids such abuses.”
UNFPA's investigation is worthless, Mosher said.
“They organized an in-house team of their employees to go to China. Most of the time they spent talking with Chinese government officials,” said Mosher.
“They only spent a half-hour on house visits. If you visit a house with half a dozen Chinese government officials in tow, what do [the residents] say? Are you going to get complaints? No,” Mosher said.
He added that the Population Research Institute's interviews, conducted with women in private, were vastly more credible than those found in the UNFPA report.
UNFPA spokesman William Ryan would not answer questions regarding Mosher's allegations, but supplied a statement from UNFPA executive director Thoraya Obaid.
Obaid expressed confidence that U.S. funding to her agency would be set at $34 million.
“I am very grateful for the strong support the Fund has received from the United States administration and Congress — in effect, a vote of confidence in our work,” said Obaid.
“We hope this signals a return by the United States to funding levels of a decade ago. The United States has traditionally stood in the forefront of international donors in the population field.”
The White House did not comment to the Register on how much money the administration planned to commit to UNFPA. According to the appropriation bill passed by Congress, Bush can assign any figure between zero and $34 million.
John Cusey, spokesman for the House Pro-Life Caucus said that any funding for UNFPA would be devastating. Even worse would be an increase over last year's $25 million.
“We have evidence of forced abortions in China of the worst kind,” Cusey said. “It should be zero funding. These guys have been caught. They shouldn't be rewarded.”
Austin Ruse, president of the New York-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, agreed.
“Reducing UNFPA funding is a campaign that goes on every year. The good news is the investigations Mosher brought, as it has provided evidence of why the U.N. agency should be defunded,” said Ruse.
Ruse also criticized UNFPA's refusal to participate in the congressional hearings held in October to discuss the allegations of its involvement with coercive practices in China.
“They didn't even have the courtesy,” noted Ruse, “to send a representative to Congress to answer these charges.”
Joshua Mercer writes from Washington, D.C.
- January 13-19, 2002