EDITORIAL, NYTimes on the Web, July 5, 2004
One of the uglier aspects of the Bush administration's assault on women's reproductive rights is its concerted undermining of the United Nations Population Fund based on the false accusation that it supports coerced abortions in China.
The fund supports programs in some 141 countries to advance poor women's reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women and prevent the spread of H.I.V. and AIDS.
Yet under pressure from conservative religious groups, the administration is expected to withhold the $34 million that Congress appropriated this year for these vital efforts, much as President Bush blocked the $34 million Congress approved in 2002 and last year's $25 million allocation.
The damage does not end there. The administration has lately stepped up its effort to isolate the Population Fund by quietly threatening the financing of other leading groups, including Unicef and the World Health Organization, if they continue to work with the fund.
Take the chilling example of Marie Stopes International. Last year the State Department discontinued support for a small but well-regarded private AIDS program for African and Asian refugees run by Marie Stopes and other groups, citing Marie Stopes's cooperating in China with the Population Fund.
Just last month, three federal agencies -- the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
-- pulled their support from a major international conference on health issues, apparently owing to the inclusion of speakers from the Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
To justify these destructive machinations, the Bush administration has perpetuated a bogus accusation that the Population Fund has either stood by or helped with coerced abortions in China.
This disregards America's own relationship with China, never mind that none of the money approved by Congress would go to China, or that the State Department's investigating team found no evidence that the Population Fund has supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
It also disregards the Population Fund's crucial role in helping to drive down China's abortion rate below the level of the United States and in encouraging China to devote new attention to combating H.I.V. and AIDS.
In truth, the administration's targeting of the Population Fund is not really about abortion.
It is an attack on comprehensive family planning and women's sexual and reproductive autonomy, driven largely by right-wing ideologues unswervingly opposed to all forms of family planning and contraceptive use.
As a result, the United States is helping to deny vulnerable women living in isolated rural areas essential information and services needed to avoid pregnancy and disease.