WASHINGTON — Nine religious leaders who went to China in
September on a seven-day mission to investigate
accusations that the U.N. Population Fund cooperates with the
government by allowing coercive abortions and sterilization
released a report yesterday saying they have found no evidence
of such allegations.
The nine-member delegation, composed of
Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant leaders, visited Beijing
and three provinces, meeting with health officials, Chinese
families, UNFPA staff members, religious groups and nongovernmental
In the report, The
United Nations Population Fund in China: A Catalyst for
Change, the delegation says the agency promotes voluntary,
high-quality reproductive health care in China, and is a major force
in helping the country end coercive family planning
"The UNFPA in no way supports or
participates in coercive practices in China," said Ronald Green, a
member of the delegation and chairman of the Department of Religion
at Dartmouth College, in a
phone conference. "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."
A copy of the report has
been sent to U.S. President George W. Bush, the delegation
said, in an effort to convince the U.S. administration to restore
funding for UNFPA, cut last year after right-wing Christian groups
accused the agency of supporting abortions in
According to the religious leaders who went on
the mission, the report's release comes at a crucial moment,
since the U.S. House of Representatives is due to approve the
Foreign Operations Appropriations bill this week, which includes an
amendment to restore up to $35 million in funding for the
Ultimately, however, Bush can veto the amendment
even if it passes the House and Senate.
president Bush turn a deaf ear to the voices of leaders of religious
and faith-based organizations who are not right wing?" asked Frances
Kissling, a delegation member and President of Catholics for a Free
Choice. "Or will he be fair and take our first-hand experiences
in China into consideration?"
Kissing said the delegation
was "positively impressed by the quality of care in Chinese
clinics and by the UNFPA staff regarding family
The last time an amendment to restore
UNFPA funding was presented to the House was in July, when it
blocked $50 million in funding for the agency for the current fiscal
year, which began Oct. 1.
In a letter attached to the report
sent to Bush, the delegation wrote, "We urge you to read and review
our report in which you will find evidence that UNFPA is not
involved in coercion. We believe that the work of UNFPA is
critical and found that it is highly consistent with our core
religious and ethical values."
The report also noted that
like the UNFPA, the Chinese government has been taking active steps
to end the use of coercion in its family-planning programs and that
abortion and sterilization rates are declining in the country as
contraceptive choices increase.
"More than 160 monitoring
missions have found no incidents of involuntary abortion in any
UNFPA-assisted counties since the agency began its work," the report
says. "At 30 per 100 live births, the Ministry of Health's
national abortion rate figures now approach the U.S.
"In UNFPA-supported counties, the rate at which women
under 35 choose voluntary sterilization as their preferred
contraceptive method has decreased from 36 to 26 percent. The
overall rate for women and men in China has fallen from 45 percent
to 30 percent in those counties. This compares with a U.S. rate of
30 percent," the report adds.
The report also cites various
Chinese health authorities and citizens as stressing the
importance of the agency in helping the population.
UNFPA [was] not here, progress would be slower and more
painful," said a Chinese director of a family-planning commission
cited by the report. "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."
The delegation will present the
report to the UNFPA on Monday in New