Bush holds funds on family planning
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
�����The Bush administration said yesterday that it will not pay the $34 million Congress has earmarked for U.N. family-planning programs overseas, a population-control initiative that conservative groups say tolerates abortions and forces sterilizations in China.
�����State Department officials said the decision to withhold money from the U.N. Population Fund, known as UNFPA, was based on information collected during a May investigation that revealed some of the funding was inadvertently used to support such practices.
�����"While the U.N. is not knowingly involved in these programs of coercion, they support and work with agencies that are involved in that," said Richard Boucher, State Department spokesman.
�����House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, hailed the decision sought by conservative groups, who lobbied intensely against the program.
�����"American tax dollars shouldn't fund a program that carries out the systematic destruction of innocent human life by performing forced abortions and sterilizing women against their will," he said.
�����Democrats, meanwhile, railed against it.
�����"It's perfectly clear that Karl Rove would rather appease the president's right wing than provide health care to women around the world," said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat.
�����UNFPA officials said they were shocked by the U.S. government's decision and that they have never been "involved in coercion in China or anywhere else in the world."
�����"We've always been staunch supporters of international human rights particularly women's rights," said UNFPA spokesman Sterling Scruggs.
�����Mr. Boucher said the $34 million Congress appropriated in December 2001 will instead be spent through the U.S. Agency for International Development and noted that this will bring to $480.5 million the total spent by the United States this year on population programs worldwide.
�����He said the State Department's decision complies with a 1985 law called the Kemp-Kasten amendment that prohibits U.S. funding to any organization that the president determines supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization.
�����President Bush was pleased with the decision, said White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McLellan. It denies federal funds for the program reinstated under President Clinton. Presidents Reagan and George Bush had withheld the funding based on that prohibition.
�����The announcement yesterday came after the administration's fact-finding team sent to China in May determined that the funding should be released to the UNFPA. Their report, released yesterday, found no evidence that the UNFPA knowingly participated in programs of coercion. It did find coercion still exists in China, both in law and in practice.
�����Mr. Boucher said the department's legal analysis found that while the UNFPA may not "knowingly" support coercion, it inadvertently does so because computers, data-processing equipment, vehicles and other support supplied by the UNFPA are used by government officials to impose fines and other punishments on women who violate China's population policy.
�����"UNFPA is helping improve the administration of the local family planning offices that are administering the fees and other penalties that are effectively coercing women to have abortions," the legal analysis says.
�����Chinese Embassy spokesman Xie Feng said yesterday that Beijing was disappointed by the decision.
�����"We are very regretful that the donations or the money United States ought to put to this fund has been stopped," Mr. Xie said. "We hope that this decision will be changed because it's not good for the U.N. cooperation, and it's also not true to facts."