Monday, July 19, 2004

The Bush administration should release the $34 million being withheld from UNFPA

Why you’re right:
1.  The money would save lives.  The United Nations Family Planning Agency estimates that the $34 million could have prevented 4,700 maternal deaths and over 77,000 infant and child deaths.  This estimate does not include deaths due to HIV/AIDS, the transmission of which is also decreased by UNFPA programming (UNFPA)   
2.  The money would reduce recourse to abortion.  UNFPA further estimates that the funding would prevent 2 million unintended pregnancies, 800,000 of which would terminate in induced abortion.   (UNFPA)   
3.  Only $3.5 million of the $300 million UNFPA budget is spent in China.  The administration claims that the funds are being withheld because the UNFPA indirectly funds government programs in China that coerce women into abortion.  However, even if UNFPA shut down its China program completely as a result of this decision, poor women around the world are still being denied more than $30 million in much needed assistance.  (Inter Press Service)
Why they’re wrong:
The administration’s assertion about the UNFPA’s involvement in coercive abortion has been repeatedly disproven.  In 2002, a team Secretary of State Colin Powell dispatched to China to investigate recommended that the funds be released because they discovered “no evidence that the UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”  A 2003 State Department report found that in the 32 Chinese counties where UNFPA programs operated, improved education, economic development, and reproductive health services enabled the elimination of target and quota systems for limiting births.  The report states, “Subsequently, 800 other counties also removed the target and quota system and tried to replicate the UNFPA project by emphasizing quality of care and informed choice of birth control methods.”  By the U.S. government’s own evidence the UNFPA has done no harm in China and much good.  The decision to withhold funding, then, is a naked pander to Bush’s socially conservative base.  (Boston Globe)