In a move that will cost the lives of tens of thousands of women and children around the globe, President Bush officially announced yesterday that he will withhold $34 million in funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Bush made this decision despite Secretary of State Colin Powell’s earlier endorsement of the UNFPA’s “invaluable work” and a report from the administration’s own fact-finding team that found no evidence that the UN organization “has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China.”
Bush’s decision was made based on unsubstantiated claims that the UNFPA supports forced abortions in China. The result will be a cut in 13 percent of funding for the UNFPA’s international family planning programs – which would have enabled the 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. “Bush’s decision is killing women and children in poor countries as sure as holding a gun to their head,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “There is an outrageous price for a political gift to the anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights of the right wing of the Catholic Church which has lost much of its moral credibility.”
The $34 million will instead be distributed to the US Agency for International Development that operates programs in 80 countries, as compared to the 142 countries that the UNFPA supports. “That agency cannot duplicate the work of the UN, which operates in dozens of countries where the United States has no aid presence,” reads an editorial in the New York Times. “Reproductive health and freedom of women are central to the improvement of poor societies. The UN Population Fund is one of the most important forces at work today helping poor women. The United States should be supporting it, not undermining it.”
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