Administration Withholds Funds From WHO, Lawmakers Charge

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - In a recent flap on United Nations funding, a group of House Democrats said the Bush administration is illegally withholding money from the World Health Organization (WHO) solely out of concerns of pro-life groups.

"We want to know that the administration is not jeopardizing UNICEF, WHO and other important UN programs because of a small group of anti-choice zealots," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

Maloney and eight other House Democrats have called on Secretary of State Colin Powell to account for $3 million, which they said the State Department withheld from the U.S. contribution to WHO "because of anti-abortion activists' objections to the WHO's research entity, Human Reproductive Program (HRP)."

Funding for HRP has been frozen because of its research on mifepristone, commonly called RU-486, a drug that causes abortion in early pregnancy.

The group said this was the same strategy used to defund the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) because of the administration's broad interpretation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.

This amendment was first enacted in 1985 in response to the UNFPA's extensive involvement in China's policy of coercing abortions.

The law has been renewed each year by Congress and prohibits funding of any organization that either supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

For two decades, UNFPA officials have defended China's program against its critics.

A Bush administration investigative team also found no evidence of involvement by UNFPA in coercive activities in China, the lawmakers asserted.

"If your administration follows the same interpretation that was used to defund UNFPA, we fear that the funding for each of these other organizations will also be jeopardized," the group said in an Oct. 31 letter to Powell.

"The administration's overly broad interpretation of Kemp-Kasten could cripple more reputable U.N. programs that provide life-saving services to women and children around the world.

"Now more than ever, we should not be abandoning these organizations," Maloney stated.

The organizations the lawmakers said are threatened are UNICEF, the WHO, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank.

The letter to Powell was signed by Maloney, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.); Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.); Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.); Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.); Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.); Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.); Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D-Pa.), and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.).

Eileen DeParrie, press secretary for Maloney, said the State Department is sending mixed messages on its intentions. Officials have given differing statements to Capitol Hill sources and to reporters, she said.

"The problem is they can't provide any hard-core answers," DeParrie said.

A State Department official told the Bush administration had no plans to cut or curtail WHO funding.

"As a normal course of business we do not provide funding to any program or organization if we are aware that doing so would violate or otherwise be incompatible with all applicable laws, regulations, or policies," said Frederick Jones, a State Department spokesman.

"We would not provide funding to the WHO if it became clear that doing so was in violation of Kemp-Kasten or any other U.S. law," Jones added.

Other congressional sources who track abortion legislation and U.N. funding said they found no evidence to support the group's claim.

"Besides their letter, I've seen no evidence that anything has been cut from WHO," a source said.

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