Defying advice from his own fact-finding team and State Department officials, President Bush will most likely cut $34 million in funds for vital healthcare programs to women and children in 142 countries, Knight Ridder reported Sunday. After signing a bill in January in support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), Bush froze the release of the funds in March after an extremist anti-abortion group claimed that the program supported forced abortions in China.
Bush sent a three-person investigative team to China in May to investigate the allegations and has refused to release their report since the team returned last month. However, State Department officials told Knight Ridder that the report concluded: “The UN program did not knowingly support coercive abortions.” “In fact, one of the officials said, the report concluded that the UN program improved women’s lives.” These officials also told Knight Ridder that the White House will instruct State Department employees to cut the funding.
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) are asking the Senate to subpoena the State Department report, according to Salon.com. “The President has put the lives of millions of women and children at risk, and we believe we must do everything in our power to reverse his tragic decision,” Maloney and Crowley wrote.
In a letter to Maloney, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, undersecretary-general for the Population Fund, said that the loss of the $34 million promised by the US will force the agency to cut back on programs that train birth attendants in Kenya and Algeria, help prevent AIDS in Haiti and provide HIV-testing kits and equipment for safe blood transfusion in Vietnam – to name a few.