House Republicans Aim to Stop Release of UNFPA Funds
Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) has threatened to introduce an amendment to the emergency appropriations bill that would give the president discretion over how much, if any, of the $34 million appropriated to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will be released during the 2002 fiscal year. According to the Washington Times, the Republican leadership in the House is demanding that language in an amendment, introduced by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and requiring the release of the funds by July 10, 2002, be changed or expunged entirely “and that failure to do so could hold up the entire $30 billion supplemental bill.” The House appropriations committee passed the Lowey/Kolbe amendment 32-31 with the support of only five Republicans, including Kolbe himself.
The UNFPA funds were appropriated earlier this year, but President Bush froze the funds after Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, accused UNFPA of supporting forced abortions in China. A fact-finding team has been sent to China to investigate the charges and is expected to issue a report in June. So far, however, none of the charges have been substantiated. The accusations originated with the Population Research Institute, an organization founded by the anti-abortion group Human Life International, which aligns itself with the Roman Catholic Church. UNFPA has denied that it funds any programs that perform forced procedures and does not use any US funds for its programs in China.
The loss of UNFPA funds has already caused the agency to make cut backs in programs and personnel, as US funding accounts for 13 percent of the UNFPA budget. 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.”