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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
US to axe family planning funds
US anti-abortion protesters
Abortion remains a divisive issue in the US
The United States has announced it is withdrawing $34m in funding from a United Nations family planning programme.

The decision follows allegations that the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has supported forced abortions and the sterilisation of women in China - a claim vehemently denied by the UN agency.

We don't want to spend money, send US taxpayer money, into a stream of funding that ends up partly going into the hands of people who carry out coercive abortion

Richard Boucher, State Department

The powerful US anti-abortion lobby had previously put pressure on the Bush administration to withhold its contribution to the agency.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he is disappointed at the decision, which may mean other international donors will be needed to step in to make up the shortfall.

The BBC's State Department correspondent, Jon Leyne, says the US decision shows how powerful the right wing is at the moment within the Bush administration.

'Debilitating impact'

"After careful consideration... we came to the conclusion that the UN Population Fund monies go to Chinese agencies that carry out coercive programs," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher announced on Monday.

"Secretary of State Colin Powell decided that... US funds for family planning and reproductive health will be spent through the United States Agency for International Development programs and not through UNFPA."

US officials said Mr Powell had based the decision on a report by a three-person independent team sent to China in May.

Its brief was to investigate China's population policies and the UNFPA role in them.

President Bush with Chinese youngsters
George W Bush is under pressure from the right
The report found no evidence that the UNFPA supported coerced abortion or involuntarily sterilisation and recommended the $34m should be released by the US Government.

But it did find some coercive practices in 32 Chinese counties where UNFPA was working, and recommended that none of the US funds be spent in China.

However, the State Department said that the UNFPA still fell foul of US laws which stop funding for projects involving coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation.

It said: "UNFPA's support of, and involvement in, China's population planning activities allows the Chinese Government to implement more effectively its programme of coerced abortion."

UN shock

The UNFPA's director of information and external Affairs, Stirling Scruggs, said: "We are very sad, and we are shocked because we have never been involved in coercion in China or anywhere else in the world.

"The opposite is true. We have fought for human rights and particularly women's rights around the world since 1969.

"Women continue to get pregnant who don't want to be pregnant, they continue to die in childbirth, people continue to contract Aids, women continue to die from unsafe abortion.

Operation Save America church service
Bush has relied on support from the religious right
"That is what the money would be used for, to prevent abortion, to prevent unwanted pregnancy, to prevent maternal death, to prevent Aids."

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Xie Feng, denied that China had pushed forced abortions under its "one child" population control policy.

"We are very regretful that the donations or the money the United States ought to put to this fund has been stopped," he said.

See also:

27 Feb 02 | Americas
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18 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 Feb 02 | Americas
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