The Bush administration, in a victory for social conservatives who oppose abortion, will withhold $34-million that had been earmarked for U.N. family planning programs overseas.
Instead, the money will go to international child survival and health programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development, officials said Monday.
Critics of the decision said it was driven by politics and vowed to fight to ensure funding for the U.N. program. U.N. SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan said he was disappointed, and China said it hoped the decision will be changed.
Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the U.N. fund, questioned why the administration cut off aid to all countries, when in the past, the fund has simply promised not to spend the money in China.
A State Department fact-finding team recommended the administration maintain the earlier arrangement.
But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, in announcing the decision, said the administration considered the law and other factors and concluded "that theU.N. Population Fund moneys go to Chinese agencies that carry out coercive programs" that involve abortion.
The White House was involved in the decision and President Bush supported the action, he said.
White House officials privately said conservative activists have pressured the administration for months to prove Bush's antiabortion credentials by permanently denying money to the U.N. fund, which helps countries with reproductive and sexual health, family planning and population strategy.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the State Department "made a decision based on the law and the law is clear that we cannot use federal tax dollars to support or fund organizations abroad that support or fund coerced abortions." The Kemp-Kasten amendment was passed in 1985.
He dismissed allegations of political motivations.
Reading from the report of a U.S. government fact-finding team that traveled to China in May, McClellan said: "The population programs of the People's Republic of China retain coercive elements in law and in practice."
The same report found no evidence that the U.N. fund has "knowingly supported or partici-pated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China.
The team recommended that the administration release up to $34-million but that "no U.S. government funds be allocated for population programs in the PRC."
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