UN chief warns US funding cut may have devastating effects

Posted April 05, 2017

The Trump administration's decision to pull support from a United Nations family planning agency hurts some of the world's most desperate women and girls, advocates said Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department said it was withholding some $69 million in funding for the fiscal year of 2017, claiming that the United Nations body violated the Kemp-Kasten Amendment - a decades-old provision that prohibits U.S. foreign aid from supporting or participating in the management of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

The State Department said the funding was cut because UNFPA works with the Chinese government, which "employs measures such as coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization to carry out its population-control policies".

In 2015, UNFPA received $979 million in total contributions for its work in more than 150 countries. The U.S. has always been one of the largest funders, contributing an annual $31 million to its standard "core" budget as well as additional funding to other donation streams that brought its contributions closer to $76 million in the 2015 fiscal year. The amendment affects organizations that support or participate in coercive abortion programs or involuntary sterilization.

"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", the agency said in a statement.

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

FILE - Li Yan (L), pregnant with her second child, lies on a bed as her daughter places her head on her mother's stomach in Hefei, Anhui province, February 20, 2014.

The State Department says the agency partners with Chinese government agencies despite China's restrictions on reproduction.

The group said it has saved "tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, in addition to "combatting gender-based violence and reducing the scourge of maternal deaths in the world's most fragile settings".

UNFPA provides family planning assistance to poor and vulnerable women. Instead, the agency offers voluntary family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies which, in turn, empowers girls and women to pursue an education, earn an income, and live more prosperous lives. It also works to reduce HIV/AIDS and end fistula and female genital mutilation.

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The UN Population Fund in 2015 received contributions totalling Dollars 979 million, according to its website.

"In 2016, US support for UNFPA prevented an estimated 320,000 pregnancies and averted 100,000 unsafe abortions, while ensuring 800,000 people had access to contraception".

He said Guterres appealed to donors to increase their support.

FILE - A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in NY.

Like the global gag rule (or "Mexico City Policy"), which denies global health organizations the right to even discuss abortion as a condition for receiving United States aid money, defunding the UNFPA is done, traditionally, by Republican administrations catering to a conservative base.

"The administration is once again relying on "alternative facts" to undermine women's access to health care", said Latanya Mapp Frett, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global.

The move was expected, but a blow nonetheless: The US is the fourth-largest donor to the organization, which will now lose $32.5 million in funding from the 2017 budget, according to the State Department.

"I can't think of a better use of US taxpayer dollars than ensuring that a woman fleeing violence can have a safe birth and that her child can survive delivery or that a woman who been raped by an ISIL terrorist can actually have some care and support, and that's what this funding provides", Jalan said.

The Trump administration has resumed the so-called Mexico City Policy established by former president Ronald Reagan in 1984.