by Gail Quinn
July 18, 2003
On July 15 there was some bad news for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is also good news for America and the world. The U.S. House of Representatives voted that day not to earmark $50 million for UNFPA because of that organizations long-standing support for and involvement in Chinas coercive population program.
Chinas program has been coercive since its beginning in 1979. Married couples need a permit to have a first child (except in some rural areas where they may be allowed two children). IUDs are mandatory after the first birth. Subsequent pregnancies are forcibly aborted. A second birth triggers mandatory sterilization of one parent. An additional birth can involve penalties such as fines as high as three times a couples annual income, imprisonment of the couple and other family members, and destruction of homes and property.
The UNFPA helped lay the foundation for the Chinese program by providing $50 million in seed money and demographic expertise. Although the brutality and broad sweep of Chinas policy became well known in the 1980s, UNFPA has continued to deny that it is coercive and has even praised China for its effective population control program.
Because of this, Congress passed a human rights law in 1985, known as the Kemp-Kasten amendment, which denies funds to any organization that, as determined by the President of the United States, supports or participates in a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. Abortion advocates, of course, want to get rid of this law. They tried this week, claiming that funds should be denied only if an organization is directly involved — for example, if UNFPA officials have performed forced abortions. But as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell noted last year, "UNFPA's support of, and involvement in, Chinas population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion."
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee for Pro-Life Activities, pointed out in a July 10 letter to Congress that "since the time of the Nuremberg trials, an international consensus has condemned coerced abortion as a crime against humanity." Nazi officials argued at these trials that they were not guilty because they didnt actually participate in the coercion; they only forwarded orders handed down by others. Yet they were convicted of committing crimes against humanity because they helped manage a program that relied on such coercion.
UNFPA and others in the international family planning arena insist that their agenda is about reproductive choice for women in foreign nations. But being forced to have an abortion is not a choice. Being forced to undergo a permanent sterilization is not a choice. When a couple chooses to have another child, it is not their choice to be incarcerated or have their home bulldozed to the ground. This is brutal coercion, pure and simple. As Congresswoman Joann Davis (R-VA ) said during the debate in the House of Representatives on July 15: "Women in China deserve better than this."
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.