Trump Administration Redirects U.S. Funding Away From United Nations Population Fund

For immediate release: Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WASHINGTON – The Trump Administration reinstated a policy Monday evening directing United States foreign assistance dollars away from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the basis that its activities in China are complicit with that nation's coercive population control program, the implementation of which includes forced abortion and involuntary sterilization. United States funding will be directed instead to other family planning and health programs not involved in China's population control program.

"We congratulate President Trump and his administration for making it abundantly clear the United States will not support a United Nations agency that cooperates in China's brutally repressive population control policies," said National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. "I heartily applaud what we at National Right to Life are seeing from this pro-life administration."

The State Department memorandum issued yesterday determined that the UNFPA was in violation of the Kemp-Kasten anti-coercion law. The amendment prohibits giving U.S. "population assistance" funds to "any organization or program which, as determined by the President of the United States, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."

As the memo states:

The Chinese Government's Population and Family Planning Law, even as amended in 2015, and related regulations and practices at the central and Provincial levels, clearly constitute a "program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization," and are an integral part of the comprehensive population-control program the Chinese Government advances. While there is no evidence that UNFPA directly engages in coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations in China, the agency continues to partner with the [National Health and Family Planning Commission] on family planning, and thus can be found to support, or participate in the management of China's coercive policies for purposes of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.

The Kemp-Kasten Amendment was originally enacted in 1985 in response to the UNFPA's extensive involvement in China's coercive program. In 1985, the Reagan Administration determined that UNFPA was in violation of the law. That determination was challenged in a federal lawsuit by the Population Institute, a U.S. advocacy group receiving substantial funding from the UNFPA. In 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the cutoff. In a ruling written for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Abner Mikva upheld the Reagan Administration determination that "the UNFPA's activities in China aid the aspects of China's program that Congress condemned."

Under the administrations of President Clinton and President Obama, the Kemp-Kasten anti-coercion law was essentially not enforced. Nevertheless, the law has been renewed each year by Congress, and it flatly prohibits funding of any organization that either (1) "supports" or (2) "participates in the management of" a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

During fiscal year 2016, the Obama Administration gave $67.88 million to UNFPA.

"In China, government officials continue to subject women and their families to crushing fines and employment sanctions, and even destroy their homes, for becoming pregnant without government permission," said National Right to Life Legislative Director Jennifer Popik, J.D. "U.S. law prohibits funding an agency that in any way participates in such a coercive program."

For decades, top UNFPA officials have vigorously defended China's program against its critics, and have held China's program up as a model for other developing nations. For example, then-UNFPA Executive Director Nafis Sadik told a congressional briefing on May 24, 1989, "The UNFPA firmly believes, and so does the government of the People's Republic of China, that their program is a totally voluntary program." 

The move to redirect funds away from UNFPA should be seen in light of the president's actions in January to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. That policy, which had been in place in Republican administrations since 1984, when it was announced by authority of President Reagan at an international population-control conference in Mexico City. Under that policy, in order to be eligible for certain types of foreign aid, a private organization must sign a contract promising not to perform abortions (except to save the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest), not to lobby to change the abortion laws of host countries, or otherwise "actively promote abortion as a method of family planning."

"Over his eight years in office, President Obama advanced a pro-abortion agenda with executive orders and regulations that were dangerous to the lives of many unborn children," said Popik. "This latest action by the Trump Administration helps keep the U.S. out of the business of international abortion advocacy."

National Right to Life takes no position on federal funding of contraceptive services. Nor does National Right to Life take any position on what the funding level for international population assistance programs should be - so long as President Trump's "Mexico City Policy" and the Kemp-Kasten Amendment remain in effect. National Right to Life is strongly opposed to any weakening of these two policies, which would result in resumption of U.S. taxpayer support for organizations which promote abortion and even programs of coercive abortion.