The United States will no longer fund the United Nations Population Fund, an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries around the world, based on what the population fund said Tuesday is an "erroneous claim."
In a Monday memo, the State Department claimed that the fund "supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China. The memo acknowledged that there is no evidence the agency "directly engages" with any such program, but said that the agency's work with China's family planning office meant it "can be found to support" the country's coercive reproductive policies.
The U.N. agency says that's not true. "All of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions," it said in a statement. "Indeed, United Nations Member States have long described UNFPA's work in China as a force for good."
Still, the State Department decision was far from unexpected. Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has defunded the agency, citing its work in China as a violation of a rule known as the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. And President Trump has pursued an agenda that included reinstating the "global gag order," a policy first introduced by Reagan, which bars any non-governmental groups that provide and "promote" abortion overseas from receiving U.S. aid.
While every Democratic president since Reagan has rescinded the policy, and every Republican president has reinstituted it, Trump's version goes further than past presidents'. While the policy previously applied only to money distributed by USAID, Trump has extended the rules to "global health assistance furnished by all departments and agencies."
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a Tuesday statement that the State Department's decision could have "devastating effects on the health of vulnerable women and girls and their families around the world." This is the first time the Trump administration has moved to cut funding to the U.N., which Trump has described as a "political game."
Governments sustain the U.N. Population Fund through voluntary donations. In 2015, the United States donated more than $75 million to the agency. The United Nations Population Fund advocates for improving sexual, reproductive, and maternal health around the world. In 2015, the agency provided enough contraceptives to people around the world to avert 220,000 child deaths and prevent 12.3 million unintended pregnancies.
Trump's 2018 budget proposal also promises to slash the country's international affairs budget by nearly one third. Those cuts would include the United States' aid contributions to the United Nations.