The Trump administration has decided to eliminate funding for the U.N. Population Fund next year after finding that the family planning organization supports abortion and forced sterilization in China, according to the State Department.
The defunding decision, which was condemned by advocates for women’s health and reproductive choices and praised by critics of China’s policies limiting births, will result in the loss of $32.5 million for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) in the upcoming budget year. A State Department official said the money will be redirected to U.S. Agency for International Development programs that support family planning and maternal and reproductive health activities in developing countries.
Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump reinstated a Reagan-era ban on U.S. funds going to any international organization offering abortions or deemed to be promoting abortions. The cuts to UNFPA are the first of many the administration has said it expects to make in funding to the United Nations and its agencies.
The State Department said its determination, which was made last week, was based on China’s family planning policies that “still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntarily sterilization, and UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies.”
It specifically cited population-control measures known initially as the “one-child policy” limiting how many children a woman may have. Chinese policy was amended a year ago to raise the birth limit to two children for a married couple, or three with official permission.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres appealed to other donor countries to increase their support for UNFPA to make up for the U.S. cuts. His spokesman said Guterres considers the Trump administration’s decision to be based on “an inaccurate perception of the nature and importance of the work” the group does, and believes that the defunding will be “devastating” to the health of women, girls and families.
UNFPA itself called the Trump administration’s charge erroneous. In a statement on its website, it said its work allows individuals and couples to “make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination.”
“The support we received over the years from the government and people of the United States has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises,” it said.
Advocates criticized the funding cut as counterproductive and an erosion of women’s freedom to make choices on their own.
Rep. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called it a “grave error” to end funding for a group that promotes safe childbirth and maternal health, works to end female genital mutilation and child marriage, and helps victims of violence.
“It is a lifeline for the world’s most vulnerable women and girls, many of whom have nowhere else to turn,” he said in a statement.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement that the cuts will curtail access to family planning, maternal health and gender equity programs.
“Withdrawing U.S. support will have a devastating impact on UNFPA, and hurts the lives of the women, men, and young people they serve,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, executive director of Planned Parenthood Global.
But Reggie Littlejohn, who founded Women’s Rights Without Frontiers to expose forced abortions in China and lobby for defunding UNFPA, said that other organizations provide maternal and gynecological care and that they will meet the needs of women and girls in countries where U.S. cuts have an impact.
“These women will still have maternal health care, through organizations that are not walking hand in hand with a regime that is continuing” to force women to abort, she said. “I believe the UNFPA has been complicit with the coercive population control program in China for decades.”
UNFPA provides family planning services in 150 countries. It received $979 million in voluntary contributions in 2015. Among countries that donate money, the United States is the third-largest contributor, behind Britain and Sweden.