- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

Pressure is mounting on the Bush administration as it considers withholding federal money from the U.N. Population Fund, which is accused of supporting forced abortions and sterilizations in China.
A bipartisan group of 126 House lawmakers sent a letter to the president Wednesday, defending the fund known as UNFPA and urging him to release the $34 million Congress appropriated for it in the fiscal 2002 foreign operations spending bill.
"The UNFPA has repeatedly proven these charges to be false, confirming that its limited activities in China, like its programs around the world, adhere strictly to the highest standards of human rights, and reject and discourage coercive practices," states the letter, which includes the support of 16 Republicans.
The letter, circulated by Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat, says the state department supported the UNFPA by releasing $21.5 million to the organization in 2001. It also says congressional support for the program is clear because the House allocated $9 million more for UNFPA than the administration's $25 million request.
In a separate letter sent yesterday, a bipartisan group of 55 lawmakers urged the president to withhold the funding.
"An honest investigation will show UNFPA's complicity in forced abortions and sterilization, which should disqualify them from receiving government funding," the letter reads. "We do not want our constituents to have to support human rights violations with their tax dollars."
Four Democrats signed the letter, as did Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., Virginia independent.
UNFPA officials say coersion and force are not used to control birth rates in the 32 counties in China where the organization has been working since 1998.
But critics, led by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, point to an investigation conducted by Population Research Institute (PRI) last fall in a Chinese county where UNFPA operates. The lead investigator told a congressional panel in October that the Chinese government's efforts to control population there include forced abortions, sterilizations and threats of imprisonment. UNFPA sent its own team to investigate and could not substantiate the PRI report.
House Republican leaders are drafting a letter that encourages the White House to examine rulings of previous administrations on the UNFPA issue, a House Republican leadership aide said.
Since 1985, the foreign operations spending bill has included language prohibiting funds for any organization that "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."


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