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President Bush Must Face the Facts and Approve Congressional Allocation of $34 million for United Nations Population Fund

January 23, 2004

The following statement by Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, is on yesterday’s Congressional approval of the Foreign Operations Bill for 2004.

WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush has the fate of thousands of women in Asia, Africa and Latin America in his hands. Last night, Congress approved funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Foreign Operations Bill for 2004. All President Bush has to do is follow their lead. That way, UNFPA can become even more effective in promoting women’s reproductive health in 150 countries worldwide. If the President chooses to deny US funding yet again, he must publicly declare that he believes that UNFPA promotes coercion in family planning in China. The facts show the opposite.

I joined eight religious leaders and ethicists, representing Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faiths, who went to China in September last year. We saw the truth. Based on extensive interviews with national and local family planning officials and in-depth conversations with Chinese women and men in towns and villages, we can say with confidence that all of the programs with which UNFPA is currently working are committed to avoiding any practice of forced abortions or involuntary sterilizations. In fact, UNFPA is a catalyst for change and promotes voluntary, high quality reproductive health care in China.

What we saw in China was impressive. Abortion rates, especially in counties where UNFPA is working, are declining dramatically; clinics have detailed exhibits of all the methods of contraception and women are free to choose the method that works best for them; and family planning workers are welcomed by villagers as providers of basic health care, not as government agents of repression.

What we know of UNFPA is also impressive. US government funds for UNFPA would not be used in China, but in other of Asia, Latin America and Africa. These funds would save women’s lives, prevent abortions and contribute to healthy and happy families. They would provide condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, contraceptives that prevent unwanted pregnancies, and women’s education and empowerment. It is foolish of the US government to deny these funds.

We have issued a full report on our findings that reinforces two previous fact-finding missions to China, one by the British government and one by the US State Department. President Bush has all these facts.

The only opposition to UNFPA funding comes from religious conservatives who are opposed to all family planning and to safe and legal abortion.

Who will President Bush listen to when it comes to women’s health—only to the most extreme of the right wing or to a diverse range of leaders of religious and faith-based organizations? The basis of his decision should rest on solid evidence, not political expediency.

Click here to read a PDF of
The United Nations Population Fund in China: A Catalyst for Change

—Statement ends—