U.S. Stops Funding UNFPA
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Long standing concerns regarding the support by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for China’s coercive population control program have led President Trump to announce via a State department memo and letter to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker that U.S. funding to UNFPA will end.

In the letter, the State Department said it was dropping the funding because UNFPA "supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization". Funds currently allocated to UNFPA will be transferred to the “Global Health Account” where it will be used for family planning, maternal health and non-abortive reproductive health activities. According to the previously announced expansion of the pro-life Mexico City Policy, these funds will not be allotted to any foreign non-governmental organization that performs or promotes abortion.

The decision is based on application of existing U.S. law, the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which was enacted for the first time in 1985 and prohibits foreign aid to any organization that the administration determines is involved in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. The memo recognizes that while the China’s one-child policy was ‘modified’ in 2015 to allow two children per married couple it states the finding that “The Chinese Government employs measures such as coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization to carry out its population- control policies.”

The decision relied on information contained in the U.S. 2016 Human Rights Report for China which the memo states, “The Report notes that China's population-control policy relies on measures such as mandatory pregnancy examinations and coercive abortions and sterilizations.”

UNFPA responded to the not unexpected announcement by stating that it “regrets the decision by the United States” and charged that the “decision is based on the erroneous claim that UNFPA ‘supports, or participates in the management of, a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization’ in China. UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination.”

UNFPA is heavily invested in China; in its 2015 Country programme document for China, UNFPA lists a proposed $22 million in spending for programs including for “sexual and reproductive health” and “population dynamics”. In the “Situation analysis” section, UNFPA acknowledges “An estimated 13 million abortions occur annually, about half of which are among youth” and “22 per cent of female youth reported having had sex, 21 per cent of whom had unplanned pregnancies, with 91 per cent ending in abortions.”

UNFPA expresses no concern for the 13 million abortions that take place every year, 6.5 million of which involve young women, nor does it indicate any interest in learning why the abortion rate for young women is so high. One can only conjecture that it already knows the answer—pregnancy among unmarried young women violates China’s birth policy leading to coerced and even forced abortion—an unrestrained and expansive human rights violation which UNFPA chooses to ignore.

The U.S. 2016 Human Rights Report for China helped in the defunding decision and provides details on the human rights violations affecting women in China every day:

-Regulations pertaining to single women and unmarried couples remain unchanged. Children born to single mothers or unmarried couples are considered ‘outside of the policy’ and subject to the social compensation fee and the denial of legal documents, such as birth documents and the “hukou” residence permit.”

-The government imposed a coercive birth-limitation policy that, despite lifting one-child-per-family restrictions, denied women the right to decide the number of their children and in some cases resulted in forced abortions (sometimes at advanced stages of pregnancy).

-Under the law and in practice, there continued to be financial and administrative penalties for births that exceed birth limits or otherwise violate regulations. The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced it would continue to impose fines, called “social compensation fees,” for policy violations. The law as implemented requires each woman with an unauthorized pregnancy to abort or pay the social compensation fee, which can reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income. The exact level of the fee varied widely from province to province. Those with financial means often paid the fee so that their children born in violation of the birth restrictions would have access to services. Some parents avoided the fee by hiding a child born in violation of the law with friends or relatives.

-Government statistics on the percentage of abortions during the year that were nonelective were not available.

-As in prior years, population control policy continued to rely on social pressure, education, propaganda, and economic penalties as well as on measures such as mandatory pregnancy examinations and coercive abortions and sterilizations.

-Those found to have a pregnancy in violation of the law or those who helped another to evade state controls could face punitive measures, such as onerous fines, job loss, demotion, and loss of promotion opportunity (for those in the public sector or state-owned enterprises), expulsion from the CCP (membership is an unofficial requirement for many jobs), and other administrative punishments. 

-In the provinces where provincial regulations do not explicitly require termination of pregnancy or remedial measures, some local officials still coerced abortions to avoid surpassing population growth quotas.

-The law lists seven activities that authorities are prohibited from undertaking when enforcing birth control regulations, which include beating individuals and their families, destroying property or crops, confiscating property to cover the amount of the fee, detaining relatives, and conducting pregnancy tests on unmarried women. Forced abortion is not listed.

It is clear from its own documents that UNFPA plays an active supporting role in China’s population control program. The evidence of the human rights violations inherent in the 13 million abortions that take place every year can no longer be denied or ignored by UNFPA. UNFPA needs to reevaluate its focus on promotion of “safe abortion” in pro-life countries and recognize that coerced and forced abortions are taking place every day in China.

The U.S. decision was one that UNFPA and its supporters had been expecting. Pro-abortion donor countries have already increased their financial commitments, including Sweden and Iceland.

Grateful Americans who care about human rights violations in China ought to be heartened by this defunding decision.