The population fund, or UNFPA, has a presence in more than 140 countries.
Its mission is to provide aid for family planning and promote women’s rights worldwide, with the aim of assuring universal access to reproductive health services.
“The main priority of the UNFPA is to prevent women from dying giving birth in Africa, South America and Asia. That is our priority number one,” said Abubakar Dungus, a UNFPA spokesman.
Mr. Obama’s decision to restore U.S. funding to the UNFPA marked the latest shift in a political see-saw that dates back to the Reagan administration and reflects conflicting agendas of Republicans and Democrats.
President Reagan cut off funding and President Clinton restored it. President George W. Bush again cut off funding and one of Mr. Obama’s first acts in office was to resume it.
Critics assert that the organization has had an overly cozy relationship with the Chinese government, which tries to limit women to having one child, a policy that has sometimes been enforced through coercion.
“It’s very clear that the U.N. Population Fund is a cheerleader for the Chinese family planning program, is funding the program, and turns a blind eye to forced abortion and forced sterilization,” said Stephen Mosher, and president of the Population Research Institute, a pro-life group that has been harshly critical of UNFPA.
Mr. Mosher, a longtime critic of China’s one-child policy, sent a private team to China’s Sihui county in Guangdong province in 2001 to investigate UNFPA’s involvement with China’s population program.
The team found that voluntary family planning was virtually nonexistent and forced abortions and sterilizations were official policy. Women who refused these procedures risked punitive fines, destruction of their homes, and even imprisonment, according to a subsequent report filed by the team.
The local UNFPA official operated out of the Office of Family Planning in Sihui, according to the investigators.
“It is inconceivable that the U.N. population official who worked in the same office did not know what was going on,” Mr. Mosher said.
Other investigations, however, have come to different conclusions.
The State Department sent three ambassadors to China in 2002 to investigate whether forced abortions and sterilizations had occurred.
The team’s findings contradicted those of PRI, reporting that, while the Chinese government was still involved in coercive population control, there was no evidence that the UNFPA had any involvement. A British investigation produced the same result.