(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) received $50 million from the United States government this year, despite its involvement in China, where the government's population program, according to the U.S. State Department, includes a "coercive birth limitation policy" that in some cases results "in forced abortion or forced sterilization."
The UNFPA says its programs in China are voluntary and respect human rights.
Funding for the group was included in an omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed in March, which represents a reversal from the Bush Administration's refusal to fund UNFPA.
During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, UNFPA discussed “the status of family planning in the developing world and its impact on population dynamics and inequality.” Geeta Sen, an adjunct professor of global health and population at the Harvard School of Public Health, described UNFPA’s mission.
“Like our need for food and air and water, sex and reproduction are a hearty perennial of human existence,” Sen said. “We are always going to be doing those things and we need be able to do them safely. We need to make sure poor people have the same rights in this area as rich people do. We need to make sure that young people have the same rights and abilities in sex and reproduction as older people do.”
The fund’s Web site repeats the phrase: “No woman should die giving life.”
But critics of UNFPA say that phrase is a euphemism for population control. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, says UNFPA is pro-abortion.
The Population Research Institute describes its mission as exposing the “myth of overpopulation” as well as human rights abuses committed in population control programs.
“Reproductive health is a misleading phrase,” Mosher told CNSNews.com. “Their measurement of reproductive health is . . . how many, what percentage, of women in a population of reproductive age are (using contraception) or have been sterilized.”
“(T)his is the U.N. Population Fund, this is not the U.N. Maternal Health Fund, or the U.N. Natural Family Planning (Fund)” he said. “This is a population-control group.”
Mosher said UNFPA’s assertion that “no woman should die giving life” can be better met by offering prenatal care, attending to the mother at the time of birth, and providing a means to get to a clinic in the case of complications.
“You can reduce maternal mortality down to very low levels, levels that we see in Germany, Sweden and the United States, but that’s not the solution offered by the U.N. Population Fund,” said Mosher, who first traveled to China in 1979 to interview women there about China’s “One Child” forced abortion and sterilization program.
“(The fund) is going to ensure that no women die in child birth by ensuring that no women get pregnant,” he added. “Well, that’s like saying if you prevent people from driving cars, they won’t die in traffic accidents. It’s true, but who would ever advocate that?”
In 1983, the U.N. agency gave its first World Population Award to Qian Xinzhong, the minister of China’s State Family Planning Commission, who was charged with overseeing that country’s “one-child policy.” At a family planning conference the prior year, Xinzhong made it known that his goal was 100 percent sterilization by 1985 for couples that already had two children.
A 2001 report Mosher authored for the Population Research Institute details population-control efforts in China, where the UNFPA allegedly supports the one-child policy and even funds programs sterilizing women and aborting additional children.
Mosher said little has changed since Xinzhong’s tenure: “It’s still just as brutal as it was in the beginning, 30 years ago,” he said. “Women are arrested and aborted there, sometimes in the (last months) of pregnancy,” he said.
The PRI report includes interviews that were submitted as congressional testimony in 2001 showing widespread human rights abuses in Sihui County. That county is said to be representative of the rest of the country. Although UNFPA denies any coercion takes place, Mosher says the UNFPA works with China’s family planning authorities.
The subjects in the 2001 testimony include:
-- A woman who was forcibly sterilized after having a second child, but then had a third child after the operation failed. She was sterilized a second time and has not become pregnant again.
Asked by the interviewers what would happen if she tried to evade family planning workers who came to sterilize her, she said, “That wouldn’t work. They would tear down my house.”
Pointing at the ceiling, she said, “They would wreck it.”
-- A woman who was pregnant with her second child and refused to abort it. She went into hiding until three family members were arrested, then was forced to hide with her in-laws, six of whom were then arrested and three of whose homes were destroyed by authorities armed with jackhammers.
“Look at this,” her father said. “All of the doors and windows destroyed . . . It took forty bags of cement to repair the holes.”
Local officials also told the PRI’s investigative team, according to the report, that “there is no distinction between UNFPA’s program in Sihui and the Chinese family planning program (there).”
UNFPA, however, maintains that no coercion is happening in Sihui County, and it told CNSNews.com that their programs are entirely voluntary.
“(W)e have been found by the U.S government, by the Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton, to not be in violation of any U.S. laws,” Sarah Craven, chief of UNFPA’s Washington, D.C., office, said. “Our program in China promotes an approach based in voluntarism and human rights.”
The Kemp-Kasten amendment, regularly found in appropriations bills including the March omnibus appropriations bill, forbids federal money from going to any organization that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
The Obama administration and Secretary Clinton have found that UNFPA does not violate Kemp-Kasten, and House Democrats also authored language guaranteeing funds to UNFPA.
But Mosher finds the certification incomprehensible.
“I have talked to literally hundreds of people on the ground in China in the last few weeks, and the program is clearly coercive,” he said.
“(The fund) is not making a difference in the direction of voluntarism, which it claims to be, and there’s no way that Secretary Clinton couldn’t know that.”
Indeed, the State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report on China, published on February 25 of this year, describes China's population control program as sharply coercive.
"The government continued its coercive birth limitation policy, in some cases resulting in forced abortion or forced sterilization," said the State Department.
"Those who violated the child limit policy by having an unapproved child or helping another do so faced disciplinary measures such as social compensation fees, job loss or demotion, loss of promotion opportunity, expulsion from the party (membership in which was an unofficial requirement for certain jobs), and other administrative punishments, including in some cases the destruction of private property," said the State Department. "In the case of families that already had two children, one parent was often pressured to undergo sterilization. The penalties sometimes left women with little practical choice but to undergo abortion or sterilization."
One Chinese woman's case, according to the State Deparment, ended with Chinese officials killing a child who had just been born.
"In March family-planning officials in Henan Province reportedly forcibly detained a 23-year-old unmarried woman who was seven months pregnant," said the State Department. "Officials reportedly tied her to a bed, induced labor, and killed the newborn upon delivery."
According to its annual report, UNFPA spent more than 66 percent of its 2008 Asia budget on “reproductive health."
“(N)o one is saying that the UNFPA office staffer in Sihui County is actually out there doing abortions, but does he know about them? Is he complicit? Does he work with the family planning authorities?” Mosher asked.
“Do they know what the quotas are, the targets? Do they know that women are arrested and (undergo abortions) sometimes in the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy? Of course they know. Are they funding the program? Of course they are.”
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell made similar findings when he sent a fact-finding mission to China in May 2002, saying, UNFPA’s “support of, and involvement in, China's population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion.”
The UNFPA's Craven said: “(W)e are absolutely delighted that the United States has come back as a funding partner and joined the 180 other countries around the world that support (us).”
The $50 million from the omnibus bill makes the United States one of the top UNFPA donors, along with the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.