Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (NY-7), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), Nita Lowey (NY-18) and Howard Berman (CA-28), along with 118 other House Democrats, sent a letter to President Obama urging ongoing support for the United National Population Fund (UNFPA), a multinational organization that provides life-saving services to women, children and families in over 150 countries.
Last month, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed out of committee a bill to eliminate all funding for UNFPA. Shortly thereafter, 100 Republican members of the House sent a letter to President Obama urging him to immediately revoke all funding for UNFPA.
"[U.S.] support is under threat in Congress due to a systematic and baseless campaign of misinformation directed against UNFPA. It is time for the allegations and falsehoods to come to an end," write the lawmakers.
The United States has been a leader in ensuring safe and secure access for women around the world to voluntary family planning and maternal health programs. The U.S. contributed $40 million for UNFPA last year for life-saving activities like providing voluntary family planning, ensuring post-rape care and emergency obstetric care in post conflict and disaster situations, ending the practice of female genital mutilation and preventing obstetric fistula, and providing skilled birth attendants which is proven to reduce the incidence of women dying in childbirth by 75-80 percent.
"If the U.S. abandons its support for this vital international effort we will see a dramatic depreciation of efforts to end female genital mutilation, help doctors and nurses in poor areas throughout the world learn to deliver babies safely, educate about the proper use of birth control and provide post-rape care such a decision could also result in a major increase in the incidence of women dying in childbirth, the number of unplanned pregnancies, the incidence of HIV/AIDS, the level of poverty faced by those who can least afford it and the cruelty of facing life after rape without assistance," write the lawmakers.
President Obama led the effort to restore U.S. financial support for UNFPA in 2009.
Americans for UNFPA support the call from House Democrats urging continued support of UNFPA.
"Family planning programs are a sound economic investment that help women help themselves. In countries with effective family planning programs, women are in better health and are able to get the education and resources they need to provide for themselves and their families," said Valerie DeFillipo, President, Americans for UNFPA. "Thank you to the 122 lawmakers for bringing the sentiment of the majority of Americans to the fore in support of UNFPA's life saving work. Their outreach to one another and to the President and his Administration reflect the values that American voters, and women around the world, count on them to support and address."
The full text of the letter to President Obama is below:
November 3, 2011
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
On October 7, 2011, you received a letter signed by a number of our House Republican colleagues. The letter, unfortunately, misrepresented and distorted a number of facts about the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) -- a multinational organization that provides life-saving services to women, children and families in over 150 countries. We want to ensure the public record accurately reflects the work of UNFPA and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the United States remains a strong supporter of the program.
Last year, the U.S. contributed $40 million to UNFPA for a range of global activities, including voluntary family planning information, education and services, post-rape care and emergency obstetric care in post-conflict and disaster situations. The contribution also aided initiatives to end the practice of female genital mutilation, prevent obstetric fistula and provide skilled birth attendants -- a practice proven to reduce the incidence of women dying in childbirth by 75-80%.
U.S. support of UNFPA is critical to the program's continued success. Yet, this support is under threat in Congress due to a systematic and baseless campaign of misinformation directed against UNFPA. It is time for the allegations and falsehoods to come to an end, and we want the record to clearly reflect that UNFPA does not support coercion in family planning, coercive abortions or forced sterilizations anywhere. Further, UNFPA rejects "one-child" policies and has vigorously advocated against them. And, since voluntary family planning helps prevent unplanned pregnancies, it also helps prevent abortions.
With respect to its work in China, UNFPA provides assistance to Chinese men and women on how to determine the size of their families without coercion, and it supports the abandonment of all other practices. In 2002, both a United Kingdom parliamentary delegation as well as an independent blue-ribbon delegation sent to China by the U.S. State Department under President George W. Bush found no evidence that UNFPA supported China's coercive birth policies. In fact, the delegation reported UNFPA not only advocated against these policies, but was a force for changing them. Still, UNFPA received no contribution from the U.S. from 2001 to 2007.
There is no question that cruel state enforcement of China's forcible one-child policy results in widespread and severe violations of women's rights, but that's only further reason for the U.S. to maintain its support of UNFPA and its efforts there and internationally. It is UNFPA that is working to educate women throughout the world, including in China, on the use of voluntary family planning. Moreover, UNFPA's global presence is a constant reminder to China and other authorities to respect human rights.
If the U.S. abandons its support for this vital international effort we will see a dramatic depreciation of efforts to end female genital mutilation, help doctors and nurses in poor areas throughout the world learn to deliver babies safely, educate about the proper use of birth control and provide post-rape care. And, make no mistake -- such a decision could also result in a major increase in the incidence of women dying in childbirth, the number of unplanned pregnancies, the incidence of HIV/AIDS, the level of poverty faced by those who can least afford it and the cruelty of facing life after rape without assistance.
The U.S. has long been a leader in ensuring safe and secure access for women around the world to contraceptives and other family planning services. From the Global Health Initiative to a strong U.S. commitment to reaching the Millennium Development Goals, we thank you for your unwavering efforts to foster the health and dignity of women worldwide. We remain your partners in ensuring the health and well-being of mothers and children across the globe.
Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Chris Van Hollen