Jun 21, 2004
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - As reported in today's New York Times, the Bush administration is once more doing the bidding of right-wing, anti-abortion groups in threatening to de-fund any organization that cooperates with UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

At a time when the administration is making overtures to the UN to gain essential support for its mission in Iraq, it is expanding its onslaught against UNFPA It has warned the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) against any cooperation or joint projects with UNFPA.

The administration has taken its action under the assumption that it is curbing abortions worldwide. But the reality is that the UNFPA does not fund abortions or abortion-related programs. The U.S. State Department affirmed this in 2002 after an investigation of false charges against UNFPA’s programs in China and elsewhere.

This weekend, the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) convenes a Meeting on Population and Development in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The purpose is to reaffirm the region’s support for the Programme of Action adopted ten years ago at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. The United States, a member of the commission, will send an official delegation to the meeting.

The U.S. is once more expected to be alone in its opposition to the international consensus as it was during a preliminary meeting in Chile earlier this year. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) and Joseph Crowley (NY-07) will attend the ECLAC final meeting along with a parliamentarian from the region.

Reps. Maloney, Crowley, Barbara Lee (CA-09) and Henry Waxman (CA-30) have written Secretary of State Colin Powell to ask for a clarification of the legal basis for de-funding UNFPA in the first place (Text of letter). In 2002, the administration invoked the Kemp-Kasten law, which prohibits U.S. funding of organizations involved in forced sterilizations of coercive abortions. The administration claimed UNFPA aided the Chinese government in such actions, even though its own fact-finding team refuted the claim.

“At a time when we need the UN more than ever, the will of the right wing is getting in the way,” said Maloney. “In its continued War on Women, the Bush administration is doing the right wing’s bidding - telling WHO and UNICEF whom they can meet with, whom they can include on a panel and whom they can talk to, all at risk of losing funding. It’s just so un-American.

“You have to remember that this all started because the administration did not tell the truth about the good work UNFPA is doing in China. They put millions of women and children around the world at risk because of that. Now they’re doing it all over again.”

Crowley said: “It is disturbing--but unfortunately not surprising - that this administration is threatening to de-fund the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since taking office, President Bush has proven that he is content to hold the United Nation's Population Fund (UNFPA) hostage to appease the far right. The WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA, all work to better the lives of people around the world. Sadly this Administration is all too willing to overlook the critical work of these groups, and the people they help, for the sake of playing extremist politics.”

“This is yet another alarming example of how the Bush Administration's record of putting politics ahead of science can cost lives,” said Waxman.

“The Bush Administration's isolation of groups such as WHO and UNICEF that work with the United Nations Population Fund represents nothing less than a global assault on women's health” said Lee. “Despite a wealth of scientific data that links reduced rates of HIV transmission to comprehensive reproductive health care programs, this Administration seems intent on turning back women's health to the Dark Ages.”