- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

The International Planned Parenthood Federation has repaid $700,000 in U.S. grants, on the eve of a congressional audit over the group's affiliates using the funds for abortions and abortion-advocacy efforts in India and Uganda.

The London-based IPPF deposited the money in a U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) account after learning that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had dispatched a General Accounting Office (GAO) team to audit the population-control group, which has affiliates in 134 countries.

In a report released yesterday, the GAO disclosed the repayment and told Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and committee chairman, that the IPPF and eight other foreign family-planning groups had refused to comply with a congressional mandate that AID grantees cease abortion activities as a condition of U.S. funding.

"In early 2000, the federation discovered, through its own monitoring procedures, that it had inadvertently provided about $700,000 in USAID funds to two affiliates in India and Uganda that, among other family-planning services, engage in abortion-related activities," the GAO report said.

"The federation corrected the accounting errors by transferring the appropriate amount of non-USAID funds into its USAID account and using the funds for other affiliates in accordance with its agreement with USAID," the report said.

Marc Thiessen, the committee's spokesman, said the return of the money proves the group's untrustworthiness and called for unspecified further action.

"There have been serious concerns for many years about IPPF and its affiliates using USAID funds for abortion-related activities, and there is now proof that International Planned Parenthood Federation violated their own agreement with the U.S. government. The question is: what's going to be done about it?"

Mr. Thiessen questioned the timing of IPPF's action.

The group shifted the $700,000 to its AID account May 12, saying IPPF officials discovered in March that its affiliates in India and Uganda promoted and arranged abortions.

The GAO had notified AID officials in March that IPPF would be audited. The GAO telephoned IPPF in late April to set the dates for its audit visit as May 25 and 26.

"The International Planned Parenthood Federation cleaned up its books only days before GAO arrived to audit them," Mr. Thiessen said. "The timing of this, with no repercussions from USAID, makes it clear that current family-planning restrictions are little more than administrative window dressing.

"The Clinton-Gore administration doesn't do anything when a population-control group violates the law, even when they are caught red-handed."

The House is now wrapping up work on appropriations bills for fiscal 2001, with the foreign-operations spending bill, which would include any further funding for family-planning programs, likely to be among the most contentious.

Richard C. Nygard, AID acting assistant administrator, responded that the agency had "worked diligently" with international family-planning grantees "to ensure awareness and compliance with [abortion] restrictions," despite "negative consequences of these restrictions."

Mr. Nygard said the certification requirements "constrain the ability of foreign non-government recipients to address a major public health policy issue and impinge on free speech.

"Numerous partner organizations have expressed their concerns with how this restriction affects their ability to provide comprehensive health services and to participate fully in the democratic process in their own countries," he said.

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman called abortion a "human right" that her group will not sign away.

In a telephone interview, Ingar Brueggemann, director-general of IPPF, said GAO auditors "made us believe we were not in a position to sign the gag rule [against abortion advocacy] because of a human rights issue … . Women should not be endangered purely by a birth. Safe, legal abortion is needed."

IPPF received $5 million in U.S. money in fiscal year 2000, which ended Sept. 30, the GAO report said. Funds spent by IPPF affiliates in India and Uganda for abortions and abortion-advocacy efforts used 14 percent of the American grant.

Miss Brueggemann said IPPF disbursed $40 million to its 134 country affiliates this year, including the $5 million from AID.

Mr. Helms and other supporters of the law prohibiting use of American taxpayer dollars for abortion activities say the restriction does not infringe free speech because IPPF and other groups can still use other funds if they want to promote abortion.

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