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Policy
For the third year in a row, the Trump administration is withholding funding to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The UN Population Fund is an agency that deploys into war zones and natural disaster-wrecked areas providing health services to the vulnerable. The agency focuses on ensuring that pregnant women and girls get health care, can deliver babies safely, and are protected from gender-based violence. State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo made the announcement that the United States would be withholding $32.5 million in funding from the UN agency. A State Department spokesman cited Pompeo’s decision based on his determination that the UN Agency “supports or participates in the management or a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China. The United Nations Population Fund, lawmakers, and advocates refute this claim, saying that it is not true. Such a stance threatens women’s health and safety, and is a reflection of national policy from the Trump Administration.

Analysis
The UNFPA is a key player in ensuring women and girls in poor developing countries receive reproductive healthcare and protections. With the United States being one of the largest donors to the fund, blocking these funds will directly impart the central functions and goals of addressing gender-based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, maternal death, and threats to reproductive rights. As the Administration targets organizations that go against the conservative views of reproductive rights, UNFPA has fallen victim to defunding. With claims that the Fund supports coercive abortion and sterilization, specifically in China, the Administration has announced that such actions violate the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, first enacted in 1985, which blocks US aid to “any organization the US determines is involved in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization”. .

In China UNFPA works only on policy guidance, with the goal of changing Chinese practices such as sex-selective abortions, contrary to the assumption that the office is persuading or administering abortions. It is worth noting that  no member of the Trump Administration has visited or inspected the facility to see its true purpose, raising concern and confusion on the basis of Pompeo’s decision.

This regretful Trump administration decision will drastically impede UNFPA’s crucial work in protecting the lives and health of hundreds of millions of women and girls. Funding currently supports emergency humanitarian operations in current conflict zones like Syria and Venezuela. Critics and lawmakers state that the State Department’s decision, which is not based on evidence, will hurt vulnerable women and children around the globe.

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Photo by NeONBRAND

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