The House Appropriations Committee voted last week to release $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) by July 10, 2002. Introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and supported heavily by the Foreign Relations Operations Subcommittee Chair Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), the amendment passed 32-31. President Bush placed a hold on the funds, originally appropriated in January 2002, after anti-choice members of the House, led by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), accused UNFPA of funding forced abortions in China. These charges have not been substantiated.
As a result of the US freeze, UNFPA has already had to make cut backs in programs and personnel. According to UNFPA spokesperson Stirling Scruggs, the US hold “could mean 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, and 77,000 infant and child deaths.” The US is the largest contributor to the UNFPA, representing about 13 percent of the agency’s 2002 budget. US funding is especially crucial this year as Japan and Denmark have both reduced their UNFPA donations.