UNITED NATIONS - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "deeply regrets" the United States' decision to cut funding to the U.N. Population Fund, which provides life-saving care to millions of women and girls around the world.
The Trump administration said Monday it would no longer fund the program, because it has determined that it "supports, or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China.
A spokesman for Guterres said Tuesday the U.N. chief believes this decision "is based on an inaccurate perception of the nature and importance of the work of UNFPA" and he urged donors to increase their support for the fund.
In 2015, UNFPA received $979 million in total contributions for its work in more than 150 countries. The United States provided nearly $76 million to the fund's core budget and specific programs and initiatives, making it one of the top international donors.
UNFPA issued its own statement Tuesday, rejecting the U.S. accusation that it supports coercive abortion and forced sterilization in China.
"UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination," it said. "Indeed, United Nations member states have long described UNFPA's work in China as a force for good."
For decades, China had a "one-child policy" for couples and last year revised it to a "two-child policy," which it has been accused of using forced sterilization and abortions to enforce.
"The support we received over the years from the government and people of the United States has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities," UNFPA said. "With previous United States contributions, UNFPA was combating gender-based violence and reducing the scourge of maternal deaths in the world's most fragile settings, in areas of conflict and natural disasters, including Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Syria, the Philippines, Ukraine and Yemen."
UNFPA provides family planning assistance to poor and vulnerable women.
According to the fund, in 2015 it helped 18 million women gain access to contraceptives and reproductive health services, preventing more than 12 million unintended pregnancies and 4.4 million abortions. It also works to reduce HIV/AIDS and end fistula and female genital mutilation.
"We are very concerned about the Americans cutting the funds to the UNFPA," Sweden's U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog told reporters. "We think UNFPA is doing a great job, we support them. We think they save lives of women and girls around the world, not least in the developing world."
Sweden is the top contributor to the fund's core budget, giving more than $57 million in 2015 and an additional $32 million to specific initiatives.
"The United Kingdom continues to support that part of the United Nations," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said when asked what he thought about the U.S. decision. Britain gave nearly $200 million to UNFPA in 2015.
U.S. reproductive health care provider Planned Parenthood slammed the Trump administration for putting politics before women's health.
"The administration is once again relying on 'alternative facts' to undermine women's access to health care," said Latanya Mapp Frett, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global. "Instead of helping women, extreme politicians are cutting off access to the U.N. agency that's best positioned to prevent and reform coercive reproductive health practices."
She said withdrawing U.S. support would have a devastating impact on UNFPA and hurt the lives of the people they serve.
The Trump administration has resumed the so-called Mexico City Policy established by former president Ronald Reagan in 1984. The policy declared "the United States does not consider abortion an acceptable element of family planning programs and will no longer contribute to those of which it is a part."
The policy has been in effect for 17 of the past 32 years during every Republican administration, and rescinded under every Democratic one, including under Barack Obama.
One of the Trump policy's expanded requirements is the United States not contribute to any organizations that "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
In general, conservative Americans oppose abortion on demand, the so-called right to life, while liberal Americans support legal abortion, the so-called right to choose.
Source: Voice of America