Donald Trump

Trump halts cash for UN Population Fund because of ‘coercive abortions’ in China

The US State Department said its determination was based on China’s family planning policies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 11:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 9:54pm

The Trump administration has decided to eliminate funding for the United Nations Population Fund next year after determining that the family planning organisation supports abortion and forced sterilisation in China.

The defunding decision, which was quickly condemned by advocates for women’s health and reproductive choices, was based on a determination made last week by the US State Department. It will result in the loss of $32.5 million in funds for the UN programme in the upcoming budget year. A State Department official said the money will be redirected to USAID programmes that support family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities in developing countries.

Shortly after his inauguration, US President Donald Trump reinstated a Reagan-era ban on US funds going to any international organisation offering abortions or advice on abortions. The cuts to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) are the first of many the administration has said it expects to make in funding to the United Nations and its agencies.

The State Department said its determination was based on China’s family planning policies that it said “still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntarily sterilisation, and UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies.”

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It specifically cited population control measures known initially as the “one-child policy” limiting how many children a woman may have. Chinese policy was amended a year ago to raise the birth limit to two children for a married couple, or three with official permission.

UNFPA also vigorously pushed back against “erroneous” US charges that it plays a role in forced abortions and sterilisations in China.

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“UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“Indeed, United Nations Member States have long described UNFPA’s work in China as a force for good.”

The UN chief Antonio Guterres appealed to donors to step in to fill the gap of $32.5 million for 2017 and allow the agency to continue to do its work.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres deeply regrets the US decision and believes it could have “devastating effects on the health of vulnerable women and girls and their families around the world.”

The UN chief believes the US decision is “based on an inaccurate perception of the nature and importance of the work done by UNFPA.”

Advocates criticised the funding cut as counterproductive and an erosion of women’s freedom to make choices on their own.

Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the impact will be particularly harsh in refugee camps like those near Syria. She said the decision was based on “willful distortions” of Population Fund practices.

“Eroding progress on maternal and child health is the most recent shameful and counterproductive step that this administration has taken in undermining America’s leadership role in the world,” she said.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement the cuts will curtail access to family planning, maternal health and gender equity programmes around the world, and provide less access to critical care for women and girls.

“Instead of helping women, extreme politicians are cutting off access to the UN agency that’s best positioned to prevent and reform coercive reproductive health practices,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, executive director of Planned Parenthood Global.

“Withdrawing US support will have a devastating impact on UNFPA, and hurts the lives of the women, men, and young people they serve.”

Brian Dixon, an official with the Population Connection Action Fund, said the UN Population Fund has worked successfully to moderate the Chinese government’s family planning rules. He said the defunding shows a lack of concern for reproductive autonomy for women in China and elsewhere.

“Today’s action is just another assault on their freedom, their autonomy and their empowerment,” he said.

The Population Fund provides family planning services in 150 countries. It received $979 million in voluntary contributions in 2015, the last year for which figures are available. Among countries that donate money, the United States is the third largest contributor, behind the United Kingdom and Sweden.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse