WASHINGTON -- 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. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was disappointed and China said it hoped the decision will be changed.
"Women and children will die because of this decision," said Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the U.N. fund. She 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 spokesman Richard Boucher, in announcing the decision, said the administration considered the law and other factors and concluded "that the U.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 anti-abortion credentials by permanently denying money to the U.N. fund.
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.