President Donald Trump's decision to cut United States funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will lead to suffering for women worldwide, according to a Director of Advocacy and Policy of the International Women’s Health Coalition. Shannon Kowalski said that with assistance from the U.S., the UNFPA was able to “save the lives of 2,340 women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth, prevent 947,000 unintended pregnancies, prevent 295,000 unsafe abortions, and help 3 million couples prevent unwanted pregnancy" in 2016, according to The Independent. That makes it pretty clear how Trump defunding the UN Population Fund will affect families.
According to a letter sent to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and reported on by The Independent, the Trump administration is cutting the funding on the basis that the UNFPA supports “coercive abortion” in China. But as that outlet and Kowalski pointed out, the UNFPA covers much more than abortions, and does not support coercive pregnancy terminations.
Vox reported that that fund works on reproductive health, family planning, and HIV/AIDS, as well as infant and maternal mortality — in more than 150 countries. That outlet also reported that a State Department memo acquired by the Associated Press seemed to confirm there is no evidence that U.S. money had supported sterilization or forced abortion in China, which the administration appeared to base the defunding decision on.
A statement by the UNFPA on the decision to withdraw funding stated, among other things, that the UNFPA works to promote the reproductive health and rights of women and girls, and to foster healthier women and girls as well as their families. And the team behind the UNFPA is clearly concerned how the loss of funding will affect families around the world.
According to Vox, the United States is the fourth-largest donor to the organization, and a removal of funds from such a large donor is likely to lead to an impact of some magnitude on the work the organization can do. It's reported that the fund stands to lose $32.5 million in funding from the 2017 budget — clearly a huge blow.
The BBC reported the move was in fact based on a claim that China's family planning policies involve the use of coercive abortion and sterilization. The United States state department reportedly stated:
UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies.
The UNFPA responded, calling those claims "erroneous." What is not in error is the fact that their work includes the following — according to the statement by the UNFPA and the BBC — all of which will be affected by the defunding and will impact families around the world:
- Helping women and girls to access sexual and reproductive services, including family planning
- Prevent unsafe abortions and unintended pregnancies
- Supporting maternal health during pregnancy and childbirth
Each of those impacts families in some ways. Every family should have a chance at welcoming healthy, wanted babies, and the ability to have access to health care to keep mothers healthy too.
Vox also reported that this isn't the first time the U.S. has defunded the UNFPA, leading to an impact on families. President George W. Bush's administration also stripped funding in 2002, and claimed that the UNFPA was "complicit" in forced sterilizations and abortions in China back then as well. An op-ed in The Guardian at that time estimated that that funding would have likely prevented 2 million unintended pregnancies and the deaths of 77,000 children. Those are distressing numbers, and now, history may be repeating itself.
The Independent reported that a Director of Advocacy for Population Action International, Jonathan Rucks, told the publication that women in areas of humanitarian crisis — such as Jordan’s large refugee camps, where 7,000 babies have been delivered without a single maternal death — are specifically at risk because of this large funding cut. It's hard to look at those numbers of babies born without losing a mom and compare the figures to deaths that occurred as a result of the last time the UNFPA faced such a catastrophic funding cut and not feel some despair.
Lives are saved by the United Nations Population Fund. Families are healthier as a result of the organization. It's clear that the defunding of the UNFPA by the Trump administration will affect families around the world in many ways — even though it's being done in the name of abortion prevention and the "protection" of women. To learn more about the UNFPA and the crucial work that it does, visit its website. And spread the word about how important funding the organization really is.