Tag Archives: reproductive health

Trump administration cutting off U.S. funding to UN agency for reproductive health

The Trump administration is cutting off U.S. funding to the United Nations agency for reproductive health under an abortion-related provision in a law that Democratic and Republican administrations have used as a cudgel in the global culture wars.

The U.N. Population Fund will lose $32.5 million in funding from the 2017 budget, the State Department said, with funds shifted to similar programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The administration accused the agency, through its work with China’s government, of supporting population control programs in China that include coercive abortion.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the U.N. fund would also lose out on tens of millions of additional dollars it has typically received from the U.S. in “non-core” funds.

By halting assistance to the U.N. Population Fund, the Trump administration is following through on promises to let socially conservative policies that Donald Trump embraced in his campaign determine the way the U.S. government operates and conducts itself in the world. Though focused on forced abortion — a concept opposed by liberals and conservatives alike — the move to invoke the “Kemp-Kasten amendment” is sure to be perceived as a gesture to anti-abortion advocates and other conservative interests.

The policy change came as Trump was to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a highly anticipated meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

In a shift from President Barack Obama’s approach, Trump has avoided elevating human rights concerns in diplomacy, with White House officials saying those issues are most effectively advanced by raising them with foreign leaders in private.

Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called it a “grave error” that sent a dangerous message about the administration’s policies toward women. He predicted women and girls “will suffer.”

“Donald Trump should put the health and dignity of women ahead of political points and reverse this decision immediately,” said Engel, D-N.Y.

Under a three-decade-old law, the U.S. is barred from funding organizations that aid or participate in forced abortion of involuntary sterilization. It’s up to each administration to determine which organizations meet that condition. The U.N. Population Fund has typically been cut off by Republican presidents and restored when Democrats control the White House.

In a lengthy memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, the State Department said the U.N. fund partners with China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, responsible for overseeing China’s “two-child policy.” It said the U.N. collaborates with the Chinese agency on family planning. Still, the memo acknowledged there was no evidence of U.N. support for forced abortions or sterilization in China.

The U.N. Population Fund, known as UNFPA, said it regretted the U.S. move and argued it was “erroneous” to suggest it was complicit in China’s policies.

“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,” the agency said in a statement.

Starting in 1979, China had a “one-child policy” enforced in many cases with state-mandated abortions. But the policy was eased over the years, and now allows married couples to have two children, in a nod to the aging population in the world’s most populous country.

The designation was the latest move by the Trump administration to prioritize traditionally conservative issues in the federal budget. The Trump administration has vowed to cut all dollars for climate change programming, and also restored the so-called global gag rule, which prohibits funding to non-governmental groups that support even voluntary abortions.

The Trump administration has also signaled that it no longer sees a need for the U.S. to so generously fund U.N. and other international organizations.

The White House has proposed cutting roughly one-third from the State Department’s budget, with much of it expected to come from foreign aid and global organization dollars, although Congress is expected to restore at least some of that funding

The U.N. agency’s mission involves promoting universal access to family planning and reproductive health, with a goal of reducing maternal deaths and practices like female genital mutilation. The cut-off funds will be “reprogrammed” to USAID’s Global Health Programs account to focus on similar issues, said a State Department official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

The Kemp-Kasten amendment, enacted in 1985, led to some of the U.N. agency’s funding being initially cut off, then restored by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993, USAID said in a report. Republican George W. Bush’s administration reversed the decision in 2002, but President Barack Obama  gave the funding back after taking office.

Choice advocates protest closure of 2 rural reproductive health clinics in Texas

Two reproductive health clinic closures were announced in rural Texas this week — shutdowns resulting from passage of the state’s House Bill 2. The clinics were the only reproductive health clinics in East Texas and the Rio Grande Valley and the closures disproportionately affect low-income women in the south and east of the state, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“The closure of Whole Women’s Health clinic is a tragedy for women in Texas and indicative of the cost when we allow politicians to use deceitful back-door tactics to rob us of our fundamental rights,” Ilyse Hogue, NARAL Pro-Choice America president said in a statement released late March 6. “The majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose the health care and reproductive options best for us, yet anti-choice lawmakers have run rough shod over that sentiment and now are endangering the lives of the state’s most vulnerable women.”

Nineteen clinics in Texas have closed since Texas lawmakers adopted new abortion restrictions last summer. Twenty-four clinics remain to serve a population of 26 million people, and more closures could happen after additional restrictions take effect later this year, according to The AP.

Lawmakers in HB 2 required all abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, all abortions to take place in a surgical facility and all women seeking abortion-inducing medications to make four clinical visits. Those rules made it impossible for the clinics in Beaumont and McAllen to stay open, Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, told the AP.

Heather Busby, the director of NARAL’s chapter in Texas, in a statement released on March 6, said, “Safe, legal options for women in need of abortion care are now non-existent in south and east Texas, and that is no accident. Anti-choice lawmakers knew exactly what they were doing when they pushed for the abortion restrictions in HB2 and these clinic closures are exactly the result they were seeking.”