European Gov’ts Urged to Challenge US Condom Decision
But they did express concern that other agencies working in China might also be targeted.
At the time, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in a statement, “During the course of our evaluation of UNFPA’s work, we learned of other organizations that conduct activities in China. The relevant funding agencies are conducting a comprehensive analysis to determine what appropriate and lawful actions can be taken.”
The critics’ concerns evidently were not misplaced.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has now informed six governments in Africa that it wants them to stop giving U.S.-supplied contraceptives to Marie Stopes International (MSI) for distribution.
The British-based organization, one of the world’s biggest private abortion providers, has been working with the UNFPA since 1998 on family-planning programs in 32 Chinese counties.
The UNFPA denies that the Chinese programs supports Beijing’s coercive “one-child” population control policy, saying that it is instead “designed to demonstrate that voluntarism and informed choice are key to successful family planning programs.”
But the Bush administration has withheld a total of about $235 million in funding to the UNFPA since 2002, in line with a 1985 law – “the Kemp-Kasten amendment” – which prohibits support for any organization that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
Now MSI’s role has come into the spotlight, and USAID says it has told the governments of Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe “that it does not want USAID-funded commodities to be provided to [MSI].”
Although the U.S. decision does not reduce the number of contraceptives it will make available in the African countries, MSI chief executive Dana Hovig charged that it would “seriously disrupt” essential maternal health care and family planning service.
Reproductive rights groups are furious about what Population Action International called a “last-ditch effort by the Bush administration to install regressive policies.”
A group of European non-governmental organizations said in a joint statement they were “appalled” by the USAID decision.
“Given that Marie Stopes International is a global leader in reproductive health care and in many countries provides a significant proportion of all family planning services, USAID’s decision is likely to endanger the lives of thousands of women,” they said.
“Lack of access to reproductive health supplies may result in unintended pregnancies and could force women into unsafe abortion and increase the rate of maternal mortality and morbidity.”
They called on European governments to challenge the U.S. decision, to support the affected African governments “in rejecting this USAID pressure,” and to “ensure the continued supply of vital commodities.”
Hovig of MSI in a statement denied the allegations of cooperating with forced abortions in China.
“To the contrary, MSI is one of the few organizations that has worked over the past decade to increase the availability of voluntary, client-centered family planning services in China.”
The Population Research Institute (PRI), a pro-life group which worked with the Reagan administration on the Kemp-Kasten amendment, applauded the USAID decision.
“The Bush administration is to be congratulated for its consistent enforcement of a policy that is supported by the vast majority of the American people – a policy in which PRI is proud to have played a part – and which benefits women and girls by defunding predatory agencies which seek to rob them of their fertility,” said PRI president Steve Mosher.
This is not the first time Bush administration funding policies have come up against MSI. In mid-2003, the State Department said it would fund a $1 million HIV-AIDS program supporting refugees only if the U.S. group of NGOs running the project, the Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium, stopped working with MSI.
Rather than do so, the consortium declined the grant.
When the State Department last announced it was withholding UNFPA funding, last June, critics of the move voiced hope that the next president would reverse the policy.