Congressional Leaders Urge Secretary Tillerson to Reverse Decision Eliminating Funding for the United Nations Population Fund
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-1), co-chairs of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, along with Joe Crowley (NY-14), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Nita Lowey (NY-17), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Eliot Engel (NY-16), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reverse the Trump Administration’s recent decision to eliminate funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
“Given the vital importance of UNFPA’s work, and the absence of any evidence that UNFPA violated U.S. law, we urge you to rescind the Department’s misguided determination. Doing so will ensure that the United States remains a leader in supporting essential emergency responses during health and humanitarian crises, as well as life-saving health care for women and girls,” wrote the congressional leaders, who were joined by more than 90 colleagues.
UNFPA supports a range of programs in more than 150 countries focusing on safe birthing practices, anti-human trafficking initiatives, and efforts such as ending child marriage and female genital mutilation. UNFPA also delivers life-saving services to women and girls in war zones and refugee camps. For example, the United States is a major supporter, through the UNFPA, of the main maternity ward in the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp where thousands of babies have been delivered without a single maternal death.
A copy of the letter is included below and available online here:
The Honorable Rex Wayne Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Dear Secretary Tillerson:
We write today to express our serious concerns regarding the Administration’s decision to halt U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
We agree with the Kemp-Kasten prohibitions surrounding United States foreign assistance, and believe that U.S. funds should never support organizations that promote or perform coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations. These are gross human rights violations. However, the Department’s Memorandum of Justification for the Determination Regarding the ‘Kemp-Kasten Amendment’ fails to provide any evidence whatsoever that UNFPA violated the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. In fact, the memorandum explicitly states that such evidence does not exist.
UNFPA does not currently support - nor has ever supported or participated in - the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. This finding was confirmed under Secretary of State Colin Powell. Your Memorandum confirms this finding, but also declares that, solely by virtue of coordinating with China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), UNFPA somehow supports the country’s coercive policies.
Using this logic, any U.S.-funded entity that operates in a country in which the state is engaged in human rights violations would be guilty of those violations itself. We believe this to be a lazy assumption that will cost lives that could have been saved by aid agencies like UNFPA.
It appears there was no visit to UNFPA’s China program to make this determination. In 2015, the last time the State Department visited UNFPA’s China Program, officials praised the work of UNFPA’s Executive Board, saying, “Following a recent visit in June of this year by representatives from the United States Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, it is evident that UNFPA’s activities in China continue to have a positive impact at all levels of government.”
UNFPA works in more than 150 countries to facilitate safe births, protect girls from child marriage and female genital mutilation, and provide access to voluntary contraception for women and men. In more than 100 of these countries, USAID does not operate a family planning program, rendering UNFPA’s presence all the more crucial. UNFPA’s work is especially critical in humanitarian crises. For example, during a single month in 2016, UNFPA supported more than 10,000 childbirths within Syria – including more than 4,000 Caesarian sections.
Given the vital importance of UNFPA’s work, and the absence of any evidence that UNFPA violated U.S. law, we urge you to rescind the Department’s misguided determination. Doing so will ensure that the United States remains a leader in supporting essential emergency responses during health and humanitarian crises, as well as life-saving health care for women and girls.
We look forward to your response.