White House Must Prove Its Opposition to China’s One-Child Policy, Critics Say

August 25, 2011 - 4:43 AM

(CNSNews.com) – If the Obama administration indeed “strongly opposes” China’s one-child policy and finds it “repugnant” – as Vice President Joe Biden’s office asserts – then it should reverse its 2009 decision that restored federal funding to the U.N. Population Fund.

That was the response Wednesday from House Speaker John Boehner and others after a Biden staffer walked back comments made by the vice president in China this week following stinging Republican criticism.

Boehner also said that Biden, having “uttered the damaging comments,” should himself go on the record and “unequivocally right the wrong.”

Addressing a university audience in southwest China on Sunday, Biden said, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family.” He made no reference to the policy’s coercive elements such as forced abortion, limiting his criticism to the fact that the policy was “not sustainable” economically.

After strong criticism from Republicans, including Boehner, presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, and pro-life lawmaker Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Biden’s spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff responded in an email.

“The Obama administration strongly opposes all aspects of China’s coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortion and sterilization,” she said. “The vice president believes such practices are repugnant.”

“He also pointed out, in China, that the policy is, as a practical matter, unsustainable,” Barkoff added. “He was arguing against the one-child policy to a Chinese audience.”

Boehner welcomed the “backpedalling,” but said more action was now needed: Biden – or President Obama – should himself make a statement on the issue, and Obama should announce an end to U.S. funding for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which operates in China.

“Until these two basic actions have been taken, the effect of the Biden incident is that the perpetrators of the one-child policy – the people with the power and authority to reverse it, and end the forced sterilizations and coercive abortions the policy has spawned – have been given further reason to believe that the United States government does not object to the one-child policy and doesn’t mind if it continues,” the speaker said.

‘The left has been conspicuously silent’

Women’s rights advocate Reggie Littlejohn on Wednesday also called for the administration to reverse course on UNFPA funding, and added that the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) – which also operates in China – should not benefit from U.S. funding either.

“If the Obama administration is sincere in saying it ‘strongly opposes … forced abortion and sterilization,’ then it will either insist that UNFPA and IPPF cease operation in China, or it will defund these organizations” she wrote. Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, is an American attorney who advises an international human rights group on China policy.

Chai Ling, a U.S.-based Chinese dissident and founder of an organization called All Girls Allowed welcomed the latest comment from Biden’s office, but noted that the administration “has yet to issue a clear call” for China to end the one-child policy.

Ling challenged Democrats in Congress to support a U.S. House bill that seeks to deny entry into the U.S. of any Chinese official involved in rights abuses, including coercive population control measures.

“Where are the political left in this modern-day freedom movement? Forced abortions and mass gendercide certainly call for action from both sides of the aisle,” Ling said in a statement.

“The political right is exposing the injustice, calling on leaders, and pushing a new bill to act on China’s repugnant policy,” she said. “The political left has been conspicuously silent.”

UNFPA debate

Soon after taking office, Obama took two actions in line with pledges made during his election campaign:

-- He restored federal funding to the UNFPA, signing legislation containing a $50 million contribution to the agency. President Bush had defunded the UNFPA since 2002, invoking the 1985 “Kemp-Kasten amendment” which prohibits funding for any agency that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” Bush’s action deprived the UNFPA of a total of $244 million over the following years.

-- Obama also rescinded the Mexico City Policy, a ban on funding for international health groups that perform or promote abortions. Dubbed the “global gag rule” by opponents, the regulation was instituted by President Reagan in 1984, reversed by President Clinton in 1993, and revived by President Bush in 2001.

The UNFPA says it supports programs in more than 150 countries “to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.”

Although the agency head in 2001 praised the one-child policy – according to a report in China’s People’s Daily – it has long denied that its programs in China, where it operates in 32 counties, supports coercive practices.

UNFPA supporters point to the findings of a 2002 State Department investigation in China, which concluded “we find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

Critics, however, note that the department’s legal analysis at the time determined that UNFPA-funded computers and data-processing equipment facilitated China’s ability to impose punitive fines or perform abortions on those women coerced to have abortions they would not otherwise have undergone

As cited in a Congressional Research Serve report, the State Department analysis concluded that UNFPA’s involvement in China’s family planning program “allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion.”

On July 21, 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell determined that funding for the UNFPA could not continue. Notifying Congress of his decision, he wrote, “Regardless of the modest size of UNFPA’s budget in China or any benefits its programs provide, 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.”

Two years later, Powell said in response to written questions from senators that the administration had since 2002 been urging Beijing “to remove coercive practices from its family planning programs.”

“The [State] Department has been in consultations with China since 2002, but China has not eliminated its coercive practices,” Powell wrote. He said the department had also made various proposals to the UNFPA about its work in China “that would permit the United States to fund UNFPA consistent with Kemp-Kasten.”

The Bush administration withheld funding each year through 2008.

‘Implementing government population-control policies’

Obama’s decision to rescind the Mexico City Policy ended restrictions on funding for groups like the IPPF, which estimated that it lost at least $100 million in funding during the Bush administration as a result.

IPPF’s China affiliate is the China Family Planning Association (CFPA), which has been an IPPF member since 1983 and itself also receives funding from the UNFPA. According to the IPPF Web site, the CFPA “supports the present family planning policy of the government, which is appropriate for the present national situation.”

When the CFPA was established on May 30, 1980, a brief Xinhua news agency report stated that “the association will implement government population-control policies – the encouragement of one-child families and the gradual reduction of the population growth rate.”

Internationally, one of IPPF’s five “priority focus areas” (the five As) is abortion – “advocating for the right to safe abortion services and providing them to the fullest extent permitted by law.” (The other four are adolescents, AIDS, access – to services and information – and advocacy.)

The proportion of its member associations around the world providing “abortion-related services” stood at 86 percent in 2009, when it provided 1,411,494 “abortion-related services,” up from 435,294 in 2006.