Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The UNFPA and China

My colleague Elizabeth Brown responds to Rick's post defending the Bush Administration's decision to withhold funding from the United Nations Population Fund:

Rick states "The reason not to support the U.N. Population Fund is to avoid funding -- and arguably, culpably cooperating with -- intentional and unjustified homicides."  He obviously believes the UNFPA is engaged, in the words of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, of assisting the government of China in its "program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."  That China has a coercive program to enforce its one-child policy is not in doubt.  The UNFPA, however, has strongly condemned this program and does not provide abortions or abortion-related services in China.  In fact, the May 29, 2002 Report of the China UN Population Fund Independent Assessment Team of the U.S. State Department stated that "We find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC."  The press release from the NLRC from which Rick quotes was issued on July 20, 2002 and it notes that China maintains coercive measures to support its one-child policy, which is certainly true.  The NLRC press release, however, does not contain any empirical evidence to refute the conclusion of the State Department that the UNFPA has not knowingly supported or participated in China's program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.  If the State Department's conclusion is true, providing funding to the UNFPA would not be funding or aiding evil (coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations) as the UNFPA is not engaged in those activities and is not supporting them in China. . . .

The 2005 State Department Report on Human Rights and other studies suggest that "constructive engagement" by the UNFPA is having some positive effects in reducing the number of abortions within the 32 counties in which the UNFPA operates.  According to the State Department report, the policy of the Central Government in China formally prohibits the use of physical coercion (but not economic coercion) to compel persons to submit to abortion or sterilization.  The National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) of China has set up a hotline for use by UNFPA project county residents to lodge complaints against local officials who attempt to violate the law.  Under State Compensation Law, citizens may sue officials who exceed their authority in implementing the birth planning policy and some individuals have exercised that right.  Local officials who have used population schools as detention centers have been fired or sanctioned administratively for violating the law.  The spacing requirement for parents who want permission to have a second child was removed in five and relaxed in ten of the thirty counties participating in UNFPA's Country Program V.  Authorities in China continue to reduce the use of targets and quotas.  Twenty-five of China's thirty-one provinces have eliminated the requirement for birth permits before married couples conceive their first child.  With the passage of State Council Decree 357 in 2002, corruption related to the social compensation fees (the economic tax on additional children) has declined and the NPFPC has investigated 10,000 complaints against local officials over these fees.  Other studies indicate that the number of abortions per live births has dropped in the thirty-two counties in which the UNFPA operates so that the rates are now lower [than] the number of abortions per live births in the United States.  Granted these are minor steps, but they are positive steps in the right direction. . . .

If the UNFPA isn't funding or aiding China's coercive policies as the State Department concluded in 2002 and denying funding to the UNFPA in 2002 resulted in an estimated 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions and 4,700 maternal deaths, as well as 77,000 infant and child deaths, according to the UNFPA, I am at a loss as to how the United States can continue to claim that this policy is promoting a "culture of life."


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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