UNFPA Mum On Claims About Coercive Programs in China

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Citing fresh claims of a link between the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and coercive family planning policies in China, pro-lifers have called on the U.S. to continue withholding funds for the agency.

Some are urging that the U.S. also adopt a zero-funding policy for other institutions involved in family planning policies abroad.

In its newly-released annual report on global human rights, the State Department says the UNFPA has worked "closely" since 1998 with population control officials in 32 Chinese counties, and that those counties enforce a "birth limitation" policy.

Methods of coercion used in those counties, the report said, include a government stipulation that couples employ effective birth control methods, and the levying of "social compensation fees" from parents who have more children than the government allows.

The UNFPA has consistently denied that it supports coercive programs in China, saying its work there aims to reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies.

It has not taken up an invitation to respond to the latest claim, contained in the State Department report released Monday.

Chinese couples are generally permitted to have only one child each, while some parents falling within specific geographic and ethnic categories are allowed more, although they are still restricted.

Aimed at curbing population growth, the "one child" policy has created a situation in which forced abortion, forced sterilization and other abuses are practiced, critics say.

Evidence of these continued practices, and of UNFPA cooperation with government organs that enforce the policy, prompted the Bush Administration last year to deny the U.N. agency $34 million in appropriated funding -- a sum the UNFPA said constituted 13 percent of its financial needs for international family planning programs.

Last month two Democrats in Congress, Carolyn Maloney of New York and Barbara Lee of California, announced legislation that would appropriate $134 million to the UNFPA for this year and next.

Pro-life campaigners are urging a continuation of the zero-funding policy.

"This new human rights report is evidence that, in the considered judgement of the State Department, China's flagrant violations of human rights in the one-child policy continues," said Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI).

Mosher, whose organization spearheaded the successful zero-funding campaign, said there was more evidence undercutting the UNFPA claims of reform in the Chinese family planning programs.

"Doctors and officials in China state that UNFPA's claims of reform are impossible," he said. Meanwhile, "the UNFPA's cover-up continues."

In late 2001, the PRI sent undercover investigators to China and said they took more than two dozen witness statements testifying to "rampant and unrelenting" abuses in the UNFPA's China program.

Another pro-life campaigner, Ed Szymkowiak of STOPP (Stop Planned Parenthood) International, a project of the American Life League, said the zero-funding policy should not end with UNFPA, saying that was only "the tip of the iceberg."

Funding should also be withheld from other groups involved in similar activities, through agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), he said.

"We need to end the schizophrenic approach the U.S. government takes towards ending international anti-family policies, such as China's forced abortion and sterilization policy."

The UNFPA has repeatedly denied claims that it is associated with coercive practices in the Chinese population control program.

UNFPA spokesman William Ryan said from New York Wednesday afternoon he had not seen the State Department report and could not comment on the latest claim.

CNSNews.com offered to email him the report's address on the Internet and did so, also highlighting the wording of the claim relating to the UNFPA, and invited a response. None was received.

One of the UNFPA's strongest defenders is the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which says the U.N. agency is "the best force for reform China has."

"Quite contrary to the allegations that UNFPA is complicit in coercive practices, ample evidence is available from reliable sources that UNFPA's presence in China is actually having a very positive and much needed influence on Chinese family planning practices," it said in a statement last year.

See also:
'Citizen Lobbyists' Promote President's Pro-Life Policies (Apr. 2, 2003)
China, North Korea Criticized for Abuses Targeting Women, Unborn (Apr. 2, 2003)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow