Commentary

US to Withhold $32.5 Million from UN Population Fund, Will Support Life

Nora Sullivan
By Nora Sullivan | April 11, 2017 | 2:12 PM EDT

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands at the end of a joint news conference following their meeting in Beijing on March 18. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The State Department announced last Monday that the United States will withhold funding of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) due to the serious ethical and moral issues surrounding the controversial UN group – especially regarding concerns about its role in forced abortion in China.  The United States will withhold $32.5 million from the population control organization for the 2017 fiscal year on the grounds that the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."

This action by the Trump administration marks the first follow-up to promised cuts to the United Nations budget and comes not long after President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which prevents taxpayer funds from being distributed to groups that perform or promote abortions internationally. 

Under President Obama, the United States was one of the top funders of the UNFPA and, in 2015, the United States contributed $75,869,370 to the organization.  A recent State Department report revealed that, in 2016, the Obama administration awarded $68 million in federal funds to the UNFPA. 

Predictably, the UNFPA has objected to the announcement.  The organization released a statement on Tuesday expressing its regret regarding the U.S. decision and stating that the allegation that it supports coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations in China is an “erroneous claim,”  The UNFPA stated that its mission is "to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled."

Despite the UNFPA’s claims, there is evidence that the group has taken part or, at the very least, been complicit in China’s coercive and heinous population control policy.  In the past, the UNFPA has operated family planning programs in China in partnership with the Chinese state-run Office of Family Planning.  While the UNFPA claimed that acceptance of the one-child policy in these geographic areas would be voluntary, investigations by the Population Research Institute found that this was not the case and women in these regions had to undergo mandated routine pelvic examinations to check for pregnancy.  Women who became pregnant without a permit were subject to forced abortions.

The UNFPA continues to work closely with the Chinese government. The 2016-2020 framework for the UNFPA’s program in China states “UNFPA and the Government of China, through the Ministry of Commerce as the coordinating entity, will be jointly responsible for management of the programme.”

While many have hailed China’s recent move to a two-child policy as an improvement, it is, in reality, more of the same.  It still represents an oppressive government regime which uses coercion, intimidation, and force to control women and then, ultimately, kill their children.  Any organization that works hand-in-hand with such a brutal regime should not be on the receiving end of U.S. tax dollars.

There is no lack of horrific stories of women in China forced by the State to submit to abortions.  Women have been taken from their own homes or off the street by the “family planning police” to have their pregnancies terminated due to lack of permit. The April 2016 Country Report on Human Rights Practices from the Obama State Department repeated the assertions of prior years regarding the failure of the People’s Republic to curb what some regard as the worst ongoing human rights abuse in the world.  The Report notes, “The government imposed a coercive birth-limitation policy that, despite lifting one-child-per-family restrictions, denied women the right to decide the number of their children and in some cases resulted in forced abortions (sometimes at advanced stages of pregnancy).”

What is lacking is any UNFPA condemnation of China’s appalling, violent, and gruesome population control program. In its recent statement, UNFPA does not denounce China’s systematic, state-sponsored program of forced and coerced abortions and sterilizations.  Its silence speaks volumes and leaves millions of women and their families at risk of state-inflicted violence of the worst kind.

The decision by the State Department and the Trump administration to withhold funding from the UNFPA was the right one.  The U.S. taxpayers have been forced to contribute far too much, for far too long, to this silent partner in the brutalization of Chinese women and their unborn children. Let us hope that this time the Chinese leadership, and their friends in the United Nations, get the message that change has finally come.

Nora Sullivan is Research Director at the Life Institute in Dublin, Ireland and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from University College Dublin and has extensive experience in pro-life research and policy work.

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