OF ALL the absurdities I observed during the Republican presidential convention
in 2000, the most ridiculous was a big button worn by many female delegates, which
proclaimed: "W stands for women."
What a joke -- now a cruel one that will kill thousands of women and children
in 142 countries.
Tuesday, after seven months of maybe-yes/maybe-no, the Bush administration
announced that it has withdrawn the State Department's proposed contribution of
$34 million to the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA.
Despite ultra-conservatives' allegations, the fund does not provide or support
abortion as part of its global medical and family planning services. What it does
do is give millions of poor women gynecological care and contraception and prevent
teen pregnancies and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
According to UNFPA's executive director, Thoraya Obaid, our $34 million would
have prevented 2 million unwanted pregnancies and more than 77,000 infant and
Long a proponent of the fund, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress
last year that the program's work is "invaluable" and "provides critical population
assistance to developing countries." Which makes Powell's sudden flip-flop and
tortured explanation for denying the fund nothing short of shameful.
In April and May, official government fact-finding teams from Great Britain
and the United Sates travelled to China and found "no evidence that the (U.N.
fund) has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of
coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC." But Tuesday Powell
said China was the reason he "must" deny aid to every country that is served by
Chinese law, said Powell, imposes severe penalties upon its citizens if they
violate the country's one-child-per-couple statute. Such threatened punishment
often forces Chinese women to choose abortion or sterilization -- a practice that
has been roundly condemned and never, never supported by the UNFPA.
U.S. law, said Powell, in the form of the Kemp-Kasten amendment of 1985, prohibits
the United States from funding any entity that "supports or participates in the
management or a program of coercive abortion."
But if the UNFPA doesn't engage in such coercive activities in China or anywhere
else -- as the State Department's own investigators have determined -- why deny
it our $34 million? Because, said Powell, the fund works with the coercive Chinese
government, and that is enough to "trigger" Kemp-Kasten.
Said Powell: "Regardless of the the size of UNFPA's budget in China or any
benefits its programs provide, UNFPA's support of, and involvement in, China's
population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more
effectively its program of coercive abortion."
It's funny how aiding and abetting the Chinese government's abortion policies
-- or any of its human rights policies -- never comes up when the question is
whether to grant the country most favored nation trading status. It only matters
when money is earmarked for contraception and health care for poor women.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Operations
Committee, recognized Powell's flip-flop and twisted verbiage for just what it
is: a sellout to the anti-abortion faction that donated and turned out big- time
for Bush in 2000.
Calling the funding withdrawal "an embarrassment and a travesty," Leahy said
it "flies in the face of the facts, of the law and of the intent of Congress."
And he added a sad-but-true observation that makes all those "W stands for
Women" buttons seem even more absurd:
"In calculated pursuit of the politics of abortion, the White House has chosen
a course that will mean more abortions."
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle