Last week while the world was watching Syria, The Trump Administration took advantage of the horrible event to announce the defunding of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
What is the UNFPA?
The UNFPA has been around for a long. damn. time. It was established in 1967, organized around addressing development and population issues like reproductive health and gender equality (See The Borgen Project, 5/25/2013: The History of the UNFPA).
The UNFPA fights against things like genital mutilation, child marriage, and gender-based violence and is responsible for providing pre- and post-natal care to adult and teenaged women to prevent both maternal and infant mortality. It is responsible for ensuring access to life-saving education and treatment for HIV and AIDS and provides reproductive health care and education. The UNFPA touches hundreds of thousands of lives in over 150 countries each year.
Why is The Trump Administration Pulling US Funding?
So why would the Trump Administration pull funding from an organization that does that much good around the world? The official line from the Trump administration is that the UNFPA is in violation of the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment which prohibits foreign aid to organizations that practice “coercive abortions and forced sterilization” (See CHANGE the Center for Gender Health and Equality: Kemp-Kasten Amendment).
This move is in direct opposition to the principles established by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development to which the U.S. agreed (See CHANGE the Center for Gender Health and Equality: Kemp-Kasten Amendment). These principles state that the Kemp-Kasten Amendment is not applicable to the UNFPA because the organization has already made a “commitment to the right of individuals to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence” (Direct quote, retrieved from CHANGE the Center for Gender Health and Equality: Kemp-Kasten Amendment on 4/10/2017).
Still, the Trump Administration contends that U.S. monies were used to support a program of forced sterilizations and coercive abortions in China, which the UNFPA denies (click here for the response from the UNFPA). An article published on 4/3/2017 in The New York Times noted that the Associated Press obtained a memo from the U.S. State Department that indicates there is “no evidence” of U.N. support for forced abortions or sterilizations (See The New York Times, 4/3/2017: Trump Cuts Off U.N. Agency’s Funds Over Abortion Concern).
The truth is that UNFPA has been on the GOP radar for years for promoting reproductive health and family planning choices in poor countries. The Bush Administration pulled funding from the UNFPA in 2008 and President Obama restored funding for the life-saving organization in 2009 (See CHANGE the Center for Gender Health and Equality: Kemp-Kasten Amendment).
See, the UNFPA’s provision of reproductive health to women, includes access to birth control and family planning which is a huge no-no if you believe in utilizing legislation and international policy to enforce Christian Doctrine. Nothing says, “Jesus loves you” like cutting off a teenage girl’s clitoris or allowing a woman to die in childbirth. Based on the GOP’s actions, it seems that it is more important to them that they preserve the Christian construct of “female purity” than it is to ensure that women and girls have access birth control and agency over their own lives.
What Can You Do?
Call your Representative in the House of Representatives and let them know that you expect their public support for the UNFPA and challenge them with the facts if they decline. We have to be the voice for the voiceless!
Here’s a script if you need one:
FOR A DEMOCRAT (if you are a registered voter, it’s important your Congressperson KNOWS you live in their State and are watching their actions)
Hello. My name is (NAME), I am a US citizen living in (STATE), my zip code is (ZIP). I am calling to urge you to lend public support to the U.N. Population Fund. The U.S. was a founding member of the UNFPA and had a hand in saving the lives of thousands of women and providing healthcare and advocacy to hundreds of thousands of women and children in more than 150 countries.
Please let President Trump and the country know that you support the U.N. Population Fund because it takes more than missiles to protect the lives of women and children around the world.
FOR A REPUBLICAN (if you are a registered voter, it’s important your Congressperson KNOWS you live in their State and are watching their actions)
Hello. My name is (NAME), I am a US citizen living in (STATE), my zip code is (ZIP). I am calling to urge you to lend public support to the U.N. Population Fund. Your choice is as simple as this: Do you stand for death in childbirth, female genital mutilation, and the uncontrolled spread of HIV or do you stand for healthy mothers and babies and basic human rights?
Show the people that you value the safety and care of hundreds of thousands of women and children over party rhetoric; ONE preventable death or ONE mutilated girl is too many.