The House Committee on International Relations yesterday passed an amendment that would provide $100 million over the next two years for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The amendment to the FY 2004 foreign operations authorization bill (HR 1950) passed by a narrow margin of 23-22 in the Republican-dominated committee.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), the funds provided by the amendment would more than cover the $34 million President Bush withheld from the UNFPA last year. Bush made the decision to withhold the funding from the UN organization based on allegations by the right-wing Population Research Institute that UNFPA programs in China support coercive family planning policies. These allegations were denied by the UNFPA as well as a State Department fact-finding team. The US contribution to the UNFPA makes up 13 percent of the total funding for its international family planning programs - enabling UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death.
"This legislation has to do with not punishing women," Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle. "These are vital, life-saving funds." Meanwhile, the 34 Million Friends campaign, a grassroots movement to raise money for the UNFPA, announced its first million earlier this week.