Bush Takes Parting Shot at International Family Planning Organizations

Craig Lasher

This year's Bush administration denial of $40 million to UNFPA comes as no surprise. But buried in the statement lies the threat that other international family planning groups who work in China may also have their U.S. government funding cut.

You’ve probably heard that the
Bush administration is once again withholding funding for the United Nations Population
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
, as it
has for the last seven years. That’s no surprise (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
news that might be even bigger. Now the Bush administration
has threatened to dramatically expand

the interpretation of the Kemp-Kasten amendment, which prohibits U.S. funding to organizations that support coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. Until now, Kemp-Kasten has only been used to withhold funding from UNFPA. Now there’s a threat to 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
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 important programs in countries all over the world would be the reward
that organizations get for trying to be part of the solution in

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Why is it that the Bush administration is again singling out the organizations
that are making a difference in the lives of women and their families 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

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. 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.

Does the administration’s argument even 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 international family planning 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

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.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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