International family planning agency, which will lose all future US funding, says its mission was ‘to ensure every pregnancy is wanted and every child birth is safe’
By Liz Ford and Nadia Khomami
The US state department said on April 03 it was ending funding for the UN population fund (UNFPA) – the first concrete move in what activists describe as President Donald Trump’s “crusade against the health and rights of women and girls globally”.
Following weeks of speculation, a letter to Bob Corker, the chairman of the U.S Senate foreign relations committee, announced the state department was dropping the funding because the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of, a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation”.
The cut provoked a storm of outrage and anger with activists attacking what they call Trump’s “anti-women agenda”.
The UNFPA, the UN agency responsible for family planning and ending deaths in childbirth in more than 150 countries, said the claim it has any links to forcing women into abortions is not true.
The cut is Trump’s first in his nation’s funding for the UN. A draft executive order in January suggested the U.S, the UN’s biggest donor, could cut its voluntary contributions to the international body by up to 40%.
In 2016, the U.S contributed $69m (£55m) to the UNFPA towards the agency’s core costs, and short-term support for projects in humanitarian settings.
In 2015, the U.S was the agency’s third largest bilateral donor, contributing $75m to its operations.
The organisation is the world’s largest provider of contraceptives. It provides reproductive health services to 12.5 million women in more than 46 countries.
Last month the Guardian learned that 27 short-term UNFPA projects supported by the U.S in some of the world’s most precarious settings were under threat. Those helping people fleeing violence in places such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq, face being axed later this year.
Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy – also known as the “global gag rule” – in January. The global gag withholds U.S funding for overseas organisations engaged in any programmes that could relate to abortion.
Trump broadened the scope of the global gag to include all worldwide health assistance in his 23 January executive order, which withholds at least half a billion dollars in U.S funds. A lack of clarity around the rule, however, has left aid groups in an uneasy limbo and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers seeking clarity.
In a statement, the UNFPA said it regretted the US decision to end funding, which it said was based on an “erroneous claim” that the agency supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China.
It refuted the allegation, saying: “All of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination. Indeed, United Nations member states have long described UNFPA’s work in China as a force for good.”
The memo outlining the reasons for the implementation of the so-called Kemp-Kasten amendment – the provision that prohibits foreign aid to organisations deemed involved in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation – states that there is no evidence the UNFPA engages in either.
The UNFPA said its mission was “to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled”.
“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.”
The move comes as Trump prepares to meet the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Thursday.