The Trump administration has decided not to provide funds to the United Nations agency focused on reproductive and maternal health care for a third consecutive year, a move that has drawn the ire of many critics arguing that vulnerable women and children will be affected as a result and U.S. interests will be undermined.
Critics also note that the decision to cut funding, authorized by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was not based on evidence. The move will cut $32.5 million to the agency for its core operations addressing maternal death, female genital mutilation, child marriage and gender-based violence, CNN reports.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) will likewise be denied funding for emergency humanitarian operations in places such as Venezuela and Syria, financial aid that has amounted to about $36 million in previous administrations.
According to a State Department spokesperson, the decision followed after it was determined the UN agency “supports or participates in the management or a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China, a claim the UNFPA denies.
Officials with the UN agency said that it does not run any programs in China and works exclusively on policy guidance.
“The Trump administration shouldn’t fabricate excuses to withdraw funding from the UNFPA, especially when vital, life-saving work is at risk,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who also pointed out in a letter co-penned by other senators, that the cuts are part of a broader Trump administration pushback against reproductive health.
In their letter to appropriators, the senators also urged them to reconsider President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020, which included a 61% reduction in international family planning and reproductive health programs.
They called the cuts to UNFPA “unfounded, short-sighted” and certain to “have a harmful impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.”
The spokesperson for the State Department stressed that the funding will be transferred to the U.S. Agency for International Development “to support family planning, maternal, and reproductive health activities.”
However, the senators saw the move as unsatisfactory, arguing that the Agency for International Development often does not operate in countries where the UNFPA does. The UN agency has been “a critical provider of health care services for women and girls in some of the most challenging places in the world right now, including Venezuela and Syria,” said the executive director of the Universal Access Project, Seema Jalan.