Global Policy Forum

Good Works Held Hostage by Bush Policy

Delco Times
October 9, 2006

For the fifth year in a row, President Bush has overruled Congress to withhold U.S. funding from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The reason this year is the charge from certain religious groups that the family planning agency is linked to coerced abortions in China. Action or inaction from the administration have now cost programs helping poor women around the world a total of $161 million.

So just what is the history and the work of this nefarious group that forces women to abort their unborn children? Started in 1969 as the U.N. Fund for Population Activities and renamed in 1987, the fund works with governments and non-governmental organizations in more than 140 countries on programs that help women, men and young people.

What Programs?

More than 5,000 women hit by last year's earthquake in Pakistan have given birth in mobile services and temporary health facilities erected by UNFPA. The fund also supports 10 mobile clinics, reaching women and children in isolated villages there. It sponsored seven films on various aspects relating to international migration, such as children trafficking, getting married to foreigners, and immigrant laborers this month in Vietnam. In Uzbekistan, the fund is sponsoring a poster contest for four age groups to encourage artistic talents while learning about population and gender issues. In Thailand, UNFPA is crafting laws with a government that has an elderly population larger than any that ever existed in that Asian country.

"Of particular concern to UNFPA," said its executive director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid,"are the millions of older poor throughout the world, especially women who are struggling alone to make ends meet. It is also time to ensure greater support for countless older women who are caretakers of grandchildren orphaned and affected by AIDS."

UNFPA contends the funds the Bush administration will not turn over could have prevented up to 27,000 maternal deaths, 4 million induced abortions and 385,000 infant and child deaths, or provided contraceptives to prevent up to 12 million unwanted pregnancies. No one can know for sure if those numbers are correct. But it is certain in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV prevalence is highest, where the feminization of the AIDS epidemic is a concern for both the present and future population in the region, the men and women lack basic access to condoms, despite their demonstrated value as prevention tools. UNFPA estimates barely half the male condom needs in low- and middle-income countries will be met this year. It wants to help end that need.

Certainly the world's largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programs must be a danger to the beliefs of this nation. Or, once again, is an organization helping families avoid unwanted pregnancies, while teaching pregnancy and childbirth safely and how to avoid sexually transmitted infections, being held hostage because of the beliefs of a comparative few?

Forced abortions are an unfortunate fact of life in Communist China, but it is governmental decree -- not UNFPA policy. This fund helps needy countries formulate policies and strategies in support of sustainable development.It is a worthwhile organization. It helps with kindness, not gun or coercion. There is no justifiable reason for the United States to continue to withhold funds that would help UNFPA in its humanitarian work.

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