China Reverses One Child Policy. Does This Mean the USA will Fully Fund UNFPA?

Ed note. This post originally appeared in November 2013. Today, Chinese authorities announced that they are formally abandoning the one child policy.  The ‘loosening’ referenced in this post has finally occurred. So will US Congress end egregious funding restrictions for UNFPA? Read on to learn more about this issue.

The Chinese government announced today that it is loosening its one-child policy. This is a boon for human rights and a popular decision inside China.

It may also help reverse a bizarre and harmful quirk of American law that undermines family planning programs around the world by restricting funding for the UN Population Fund. For every dollar that UNFPA spends on programs in China, the USA deducts that from its annual contribution to UNFPA.

The UN Population Fund supports family planning, safe childbirth and mothers worldwide. It runs programs throughout developing countries to help families plan and space their births, sometimes through providing contraception and education programs.  In disaster situations like in the Philippines it is establishing emergency childbirth clinics in affected areas and delivering supplemental nutritional assistance to pregnant and lactating mothers.

Funding for UNFPA is caught up in American abortion politics, despite the fact that the charter for UNFPA specifically excludes abortion as a method for family planning. Some members of congress have seized on China’s one child policy to punish UNFPA, attaching a rider to annual appropriations bills that reduces US contributions to UNFPA for every dollar that UNFPA spends on programs in China. This has been US policy since at least since 2002, when the Bush administration’s State Department conducting a fact-finding mission and found that UNFPA programs in China in no way support the one child policy. Still, despite the evidence, Congress has kept this restriction in place. Last year that amounted to about $4 million withheld from a $40 million contribution to UNFPA.

So can this new easing of the one child policy end US restrictions on UNFPA funding? “Ideally, I would hope that any policy maker would see that our programs support human rights and volunteerism,” says UNFPA’s Sarah Craven.  “I would hope that Congress looks at this closely.”

For now, though, Congress is still taking money away from emergency birth centers in the Philippines out of a mistaken belief that the UNFPA supports a policy which it does not, and in any case will soon no longer even exist.