Family Planning: U.S. Policy Changing?

By Raloff, Janet | Science News, July 27, 1985 | Go to article overview

Family Planning: U.S. Policy Changing?


Raloff, Janet, Science News


Several events in recent weeks suggest that the United States may be revising its policy on family planning assistance to developing countries. Most notable are two potentially far-reaching "anti-abortion" amendments that got tacked onto the House foreign aid bill. Their provisions, if enacted, could wipe out U.S. funding for the two largest family planning assistance organizations in the world -- the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), based in London, England. In recent years, the United States has provided roughly one-third of each group's financial backing.

Because the foreign aid bill that passed the Senate contains similar provisions, there is a strong possibility that these policy changes will survive intact through the compromise pacts drafted when lawmakers from both houses of Congress meet to iron out a foreign aid package acceptable to both bodies. Work on that compromise bill was due to begin July 25.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), leader of the House Pro-Life Caucus, authored the amendments. One of the amendments, prompted by reports of forced abortions, coerced sterilizations and infanticide in mainland China, was necessary to ensure that the existing U.S. policy of voluntary family planning support not be subverted, Smith told members of the House. The amendment prohibits use of any U.S. funds "to carry out population planning programs in the People's Republic of China, including through contributions to any international organization or any private and voluntary organization."

Moreover, the amendment would make the President responsible for determining annually whether any of the objectionable practices continued to occur as a direct or indirect result of China's population planning programs. If such a finding were made, the President would not only have to raise with Chinese officials the U.S. "humanitarian concern" over these practices, but would also have to consider imposing further sanctions against China until the practices ceased.

Finally, to put some teeth into its prohibition against using U.S. population assistance funds in China, the amendment would authorize the President to reduce--to zero, if he chose--those funds that the bill had earmarked for the UNFPA. The agency is slated to get roughly $51 million in U.S. funds this coming year.

Smith explained to the House that this threat of a drastic funding cut was needed to pressure UNFPA--as "co-managers of the coercive program in China" -- into making China adopt a more voluntary population control strategy. …

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