State Department Refuses to Fund the UNFPA(The United Nations Population Fund)

UNFPA funds family planning around the world, but President Bush is keeping the 34 million dollars earmarked for the program for the third year in a row.

Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a letter to Congress today stating that the United States will not fund the UNFPA for 2004. According to a press statement issued by the State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher, “This decision means that this organization (UNFPA) will not receive the $34 million earmarked for its activities by Congress for the current fiscal year.”

“Today, the President once again chose ideology over women’s health and rights by denying funding to UNFPA,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “This decision means that for the third year in a row, women in nearly 140 countries around the world will pay a price for the president’s decision to appeal to his domestic base.”

The Kemp-Kasten Amendment prohibits the US from funding agencies that are involved in coerced abortion or sterilization. The Kemp-Kasten restrictions were first applied to the UNFPA in 2002 when President Bush officially withheld $34 million in funds for the UNFPA in 2002 based on unsubstantiated claims by the right-wing group Population Research International (PRI) that the UNFPA supports forced abortions in China.

Even though President Bush sent his own handpicked investigative team that found no evidence to back PRI’s claim, he has blocked desperately needed funding for the UNFPA for three years.

The yearly US contribution to the UNFPA makes up 13 percent of the total funding for its international family planning programs – enabling UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death each year.

FROM THE UNFPA WEBSITE:

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the world’s largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programmes. Since we began operations in 1969, the Fund has provided nearly $6 billion in assistance to developing countries.

UNFPA works with governments and non-governmental organizations in over 140 countries, at their request, and with the support of the international community. We support programmes that help women, men and young people:

* plan their families and avoid unwanted pregnancies
* undergo pregnancy and childbirth safely
* avoid sexually transmitted infections(STIs) – including HIV/AIDS
* combat violence against women.

Together, these elements promote reproductive health-a state of complete physical, mental and social well being in all matters related to the reproductive system. Reproductive health is recognized as a human right, part of the right to health.

UNFPA also helps governments in the world’s poorest countries, and in other countries in need, to formulate population policies and strategies in support of sustainable development. All UNFPA-funded programmes promote women’s equality.

UNFPA works to raise awareness of these needs among people everywhere. We advocate for close attention to population problems and help to mobilize resources to solve them.

UNFPA assistance works. Since 1969, access to voluntary family planning programmes in developing countries has increased and fertility has fallen by half, from six children per woman to three. Nearly 60 per cent of married women in developing countries have chosen to practise contraception, compared with 10-15 per cent when we started our work

Author: Feminist Majority Newswire

News Service: Feminist Majority Newswire

URL: http://www.feminist.org/news