UN-Funded Organization Accused of Coerced Abortions

By Jason Pierce | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A Virginia-based population research organization claims that Americans are funding coerced abortions and sterilizations over seas, without even knowing it.

At a hearing before the House International Relations Committee Wednesday, witnesses to China's harsh population control laws testified about the effects of the laws on women and their families.

Currently in China, families are allowed to have only one child. In keeping with the country's one-child policy, pregnant mothers in the People's Republic of China are required to have an explicit "birth authorization" to have their child. Violators of the law face forced abortions and sterilization.

According to a study released Oct. 4 by the Population Research Institute (PRI), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which the Senate Appropriations Committee recently increased funding from $25 million to $39 million, has consistently stood by and watched China's one-child policy be enforced, which violates their own credo.

The UNFPA, which is involved in family planning offices in 32 county-level municipalities in China, claims that: their reproductive health programs are "fully voluntary" and that "women are free to voluntarily select the timing and spacing of their pregnancies;" targets and quotas enforced by normal Chinese law have been lifted; in keeping with the 1994 Cairo Program of Action, abortions not promoted as a method of family planning; and coercion never happens.

However, the PRI claims that through a September investigation in China at the family planning facilities, the UNFPA sat back and watched their Chinese counterparts enforce the very situations they claim to avoid.

"We located the family planning offices, and in that family planning office, we located the UNFPA office and we confirmed from family planning officials there that there is no distinction between what the UNFPA does and what the Chinese Family Planning Office does," said Scott Weinberg, spokesman for PRI.

Weinberg went on to say that PRI investigators have video and audio proof of women flocking up to their investigators telling us stories of very recent forced abortions and sterilizations that were imposed at the hands of Chinese officials, in the same office as UNFPA works.

"[The UNFPA] are working hand-in-glove with this policy, there is not evidence of volunteerism, but there is only evidence for sterilization and forced abortion," he said. "Americans would be horrified to learn of these actions of a group we fund, and would be irritated that the UNFPA so routinely provides misinformation."

The UNFPA denies the allegations, claiming only to provide information about voluntary family planning methods.

"The United Nations does not provide support for abortion services anywhere," said William Ryan, spokesperson for the UNFPA. "In China, we specifically involve in a program that is in 32 counties to demonstrate the effectiveness of voluntary approach to family planning."

Ryan went on to say that China's one-child policy is not enforced in the counties where UNFPA is present, in an effort to push their philosophy that women should choose the birth control measures she uses.

"If the women decides to have a procedure done, we don't condone or reject any policy that would deny any woman her choice," Ryan said.

Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, said that given the findings of PRI's study, UNFPA's claims are hard to believe.

"I have always held the opinion that, given the character of China's family planning program, and its human rights situation in general, that it was highly unlikely that the UNFPA's claims about its current program are accurate," Mosher said. "We now have documentation, from on the ground in China, that it's claims are completely false."

A Question of Funding

UNFPA receives $280 million annually in donations and distributes it to over 100 nations.

However, Stirling Scruggs, spokesman for the UNFPA, wrote in a letter to the Committee that no U.S. dollars given are used in the Chinese population control programs. According to U.S. law, any money given to the fund is segregated, to ensure the U.S. supports no such programs in China.

"For every dollar that UNFPA spends in China, the U.S. contribution is reduced by one dollar," she writes. "Under this system, it is absolutely impossible for any U.S. funds to be utilized to make voluntary family planning and health-related services available to women in China."

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) reiterated that no U.S. money is used in the China program. He went on to say that the UNFPA's overall work it does worldwide is worthy of U.S. support, and not only does the U.S. need to keep supporting the fund, but it also should increase the amount of money it gives to match the Senate's $39 million.

"UNFPA deserves America's whole-hearted support," Lantos said. "We cannot afford to continue shortchanging this most important program. Let us not lose sight of the valuable work it is doing around the globe, including Afghanistan.

"Support for the UNFPA is squarely in America's national interests-and clearly in keeping with American values," he said.

However, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) said that even though all funds the U.S. directs to UNFPA are segregated, the U.S. should not support a program that does stand idly by while women are forced to abort their children and be sterilized against their will.

"As we evaluate our response, the United States must examine its own support for programs that assist China in carrying out this abusive program," Pitts said. "In good conscience, the United States simply should not support the UNFPA while it is funding and actively promoting China's abhorrent and oppressive population control program."