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Congress Reacts to Bush's Decision on UN Population Fund - 2002-07-23

On Capitol Hill, members of Congress are reacting to the Bush administration decision to withhold funds from the U.N. Population Fund. Rreactions came most swiftly from congressional critics of U.N. population programs.

"Our President and our country have taken the side of the oppressed and have refused to cooperate with the oppressor," said Congressman Chris Smith, Republican from New Jersey. "The United States will not fund the brutal and oppressive Chinese government lapdogs, who insist on promoting forced abortion in China."

Although the administration's decision was announced Monday, the White House plan to withhold funding was reported by the Washington Post at the end of June.

Earlier this month, 48 members of Congress wrote President Bush inquiring about that report. Congressional critics also say a report by a U.S. fact-finding team sent to China in May actually backs the U.N. fund's position that it does not support forced-abortion programs.

A key congressional supporter of U.N. family planning activities is Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York. She says Mr. Bush's decision "appeases" the conservative wing of Mr. Bush's Republican Party, and will have wider repercussions. "This money would have enabled UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, or 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses, and over 77,000 infant and child deaths," she said. "This news is extremely disappointing and it lacks logic."

However, Monday voices supporting the administration's decision outnumbered congressional critics. Republican Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas, a key political ally of the president, said the decision, in his words, "strikes a blow for human rights."

Another Republican, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, said the U.N. agency had openly praised China's inhumane forced-abortion policies, in addition to standing idly by while Chinese women were abused.

The U.N. Fund said it was sad and shocked at the administration's decision, and denied the agency is involved in coercion in China or anywhere else.

Earlier Monday, a Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington told reporters Beijing hopes the U.S. decision will be reversed, and denied China uses coercion in keeping population rates down.