Pro-life leaders praise defunding of U.N. Population Fund

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York attends Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Feb. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York attends Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Feb. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee and other prominent pro-life leaders cheered the U.S. State Department's April 3 announcement that it would no longer contribute to the U.N. Population Fund because of the agency's involvement in China's Population and Family Planning Law, long known as the "one-child policy."

"This is a victory for women and children across the globe, as well as for U.S. taxpayers," said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

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"We are so grateful to the Trump administration for taking this important action to end U.S. support for UNFPA so long as it remains committed to China's coercive abortion and sterilization programs," he said in a statement released April 6.

According to an AP report, the $32.5 million the U.S. is withdrawing from the U.N. Population Fund, known as UNFPA, will instead go to the U.S. Agency for International Development for maternal health and non-abortion reproductive health programs and efforts to end practices such as genital mutilation.

"In China, government officials continue to subject women and their families to crushing fines and employment sanctions, and even destroy their homes, for becoming pregnant without government permission," said in an April 4 statement by Jennifer Popik, legislative director for National Right to Life. "U.S. law prohibits funding an agency that in any way participates in such a coercive program."

The law at issue is the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, originally enacted in 1985 to keep U.S. funds from supporting China's program and renewed each year since by Congress. It survived a 1986 court challenge after President Ronald Reagan declared the U.N. Population Fund to be in violation of the law, which bans funding to any organization that "supports" or "participates in the management of" a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

The State Department memo said, "There is no evidence that UNFPA directly engages in coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations in China." However, the memo added, the U.N. Population Fund continues to partner with China's national health and family planning commission, and "thus can be found to support, or participate in the management of China's coercive policies."

"Chinese families have endured unspeakable abuses, including onerous fines, mandatory pregnancy exams, coerced sterilizations, and forced abortions," Cardinal Dolan said. "Over 20 years ago, the U.N. condemned forced sterilization and forced abortion as 'acts of violence against women', and yet the UNFPA has enabled the Chinese government to continue their assault on the dignity of women and the lives of their unborn children –- especially female children, who are most at risk."

During his two terms in office, President George W. Bush defunded the U.N. Population Fund. His predecessor and his successor, Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively, ignored enforcement of the law 1993-2000 and 2009-2016. For the 2016 fiscal year, $67.88 million was given to U.N. agency.

The one-child policy was in place in China, the world's most populous nation, from 1979 to 2015. Although some ethnic minorities were exempt, it was most strictly enforced in China's teeming urban areas. It was replaced last year by a two-child policy.

The U.N. Population Fund said in a statement it regretted the U.S. decision "to deny any future funding for its life-saving work the world over," and called it "erroneous" to say the agency was involved in any way with programs "of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China.

"The government of China has sanctioned state-sponsored violence and massive discrimination against women and children—particularly the girl child," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, in an April 4 statement. "China continues to rely on the brutal machinery of population enforcement and refuses to allow Chinese couples to determine the size of their own families -- in violation of international law."

Smith, who chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, added: "The UNFPA has been complicit in China's population control policies from the very beginning. They not only turned a blind eye to abuses, but helped facilitate and fund them." He said he was "heartened by the Trump administration's early action to apply Kemp-Kasten and end U.S. support for this most egregious human rights violation."

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