UNFPA in China Reduces Coercion
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UNFPA Presence in China Reduces Coercion in Family Planning

Interfaith Delegation Calls on President Bush to Restore Funding to UN agency

November 19, 2003: Nine religious leaders and ethicists, representing Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant faiths, released a report today proving that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) promotes voluntary, high quality reproductive health care in China. Their report, The United Nations Population Fund in China: A Catalyst for Change, was delivered to President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to refute claims made by right wing religious groups that UNFPA supports coercion in Chinese family planning. President Bush is about to decide whether or not to restore US funding for UNFPA and the interfaith group urges him to consider evidence they gathered during a week-long trip to China in September, visiting six counties and interviewing national and local family planning officials, as well as Chinese women and men in towns and villages.

“On the basis of our meetings with Chinese family planning officials and ordinary citizens, we can say with confidence that all of the programs with which UNFPA is currently working are committed to avoiding any practice of forced abortions or involuntary sterilizations,” stated Ronald Green, Chair, Department of Religion, Dartmouth College, and a member of the interfaith delegation.

As Congress finalizes the US Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which includes funds for UNFPA, and sends it to President Bush for signature, the Kemp-Kasten provision of the bill requires President Bush to decide if UNFPA receives that funding, based on whether or not UNFPA participates in any coercive practices in China.

“Will President Bush turn a deaf ear to the voices of leaders of religious and faith-based organizations who are not right wing?” asks Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice and a member of the delegation. “Or will he be fair and take our first-hand experiences in China into consideration?”

Other members of the interfaith delegation include: Nazir Khaja, M.D., President, Islamic Information Services; Nancy Kipnis, J.D., National Vice-President, National Council of Jewish Women; Rev. James Martin-Schramm, Ph.D., Chair of Board, Division for Church in Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Rev. Meg A. Riley, M.A., Director, Advocacy and Witness Program, Unitarian Universalist Association; Maureen Shea, Director of Government Relations, Episcopal Church USA; Rev. Paul H. Sherry, Ph.D., former President, United Church of Christ; Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, M.A., President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Delegation members are working within their organizations and faith groups to educate the religious and ethical community about the importance of UNFPA’s work in China and to mobilize the mainstream religious community to make their views known to Bush and Powell. The report will also be presented to UNFPA and the United Nations diplomatic community at a luncheon briefing on November 24.

The delegation’s findings (with sample quotes) and recommendations are as follows:

Findings:

bulletIt is reasonable to be concerned about China’s family planning policies and practices, but it is even more important to actively assist and engage the Chinese on these matters.
bulletThe Chinese government is taking active steps to end the use of coercion in its family planning activities nationwide.
bulletUNFPA has been and remains a major force and a vital catalyst in achieving China’s transition to a fully voluntary and non-coercive family planning program.
bulletMa Xiufen, Director of Ningxia Family Planning Commission, in Yinchuan City stated, “If UNFPA were not here, progress would be slower and more painful. UNFPA makes it possible to do it faster, less painfully, cheaper and better…it’s a window on the world and a catalyst for transformation. UNFPA is speeding the change process.”
bulletAbortion and sterilization rates are declining as contraceptive choice increases.
bulletLijiamo village resident, Yuzhong County, Gansu province: “The family planning situation is much better now that quotas are gone and we can choose when to have a child and what contraception to use.”
bulletContrary to the Bush administration analysis, UNFPA neither “supports” nor “participates” in managing China’s family planning program, including the social compensation fee.
bulletA family planning official, Quianjiang Municipal Family Planning Commission, Xiong Kou township, Hubei: “When the project started, out-of-plan births became fewer because of our client-oriented friendly service, and so we could be more flexible with the fee. All children are treated the same and out-of-plan children are registered for all services.” This is in contrast to previous policy that barred some services to out-of-plan children.

The language critics use to describe the social compensation fee is factually and ethically wrong. The fee, however, remains a negative element in the Chinese family planning program.

The desire for small families is becoming the norm in China, chiefly for economic reasons.

Recommendations:

bulletUS policy toward China’s family planning program should become one of constructive engagement.
bulletMonitoring of the Chinese family planning program should continue. US funding for UNFPA should be restored and if possible increased.
bulletThe Kemp-Kasten Amendment should be revised.
bulletUNFPA and the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) should bring their case more directly to the US public.
bulletUNFPA and NPFPC should reach out to members of Chinese religious communities.
bulletUS religious congregations, faith-based organizations and denominations should promote the work of UN agencies and other international organizations whose programs are consistent with their core values, and should defend those groups from spurious attacks.

To view full report, visit http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/. Delegation members are available for interviews.

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