Creative Destruction

December 5, 2006

The Democrats Taking Congress Might Save Tens Of Thousands Of Lives In The Third World

Filed under: International Politics — Ampersand @ 5:55 am

I’ve blogged a few times about the UNFPA — the UN Population Fund – over the years. To review: The UN Population fund doesn’t fund or provide abortions. But they do save thousands of women’s lives, and tens of thousands of newborn lives, each year by providing medical care for women in 140 of the world’s poorest countries. They’ve also been more effective at improving reproductive choice of all kinds for Chinese women, than any other western agency.

But they also provide birth control (which prevents thousands of abortions). In the eyes of the Population Research Institute (PRI), a radical “pro-life” anti-birth control group, this makes UNFPA evil. So the PRI falsely accused the UNFPA of supporting coercive abortions in China. No subsequent investigators — not even the one sent by the Bush administration’s state department, nor the one that was led by a pro-life British politician — found the PRI’s accusations credible. (More details about that in this post).

Nonetheless, based on the PRI’s false accusations, the Bush administration has withheld the US’s contribution to the UNFPA for the past five years — $34 million a year, about 13% of the UNFPA’s annual budget. The UNFPA estimates that “$34 million applied to family planning programmes could prevent some 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths annually worldwide.”

I’m posting about this now is to point out that there’s a chance that the UNFPA’s funding will be restored in 2007, thanks to the Democrats taking Congress.

In 2005, a bill sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Mahoney (D – NY) and others would have restored US funding to the UNFPA, but failed 233-192. (A similar measure passed the Senate). Looking though the list of “no” votes, I count 20 Republicans who lost their seats to Democrats in the November elections, and also three Democrats won open seats. In addition, six Republicans who voted in favor of UNFPA lost their seats to Democrats.

If all these new Democrats vote in favor of UNFPA in 2007, then funding for UNFPA should pass in 2007, by 225 to 203. That’s a big enough margin to survive even if there are a handful of anti-UNFPA voters among those new votes. ((In 2005, 95% of Democrats in the House voted in favor of restoring funding to UNFPA.))

Even if a funding restoration bill passes, Bush could veto — this is an issue that pro-life groups care a lot about. But there will also be pressures on Bush, and on the Republicans, to move away from the extremism that contributed to their loss in the 2006 elections. There is, at least, reason to hope UNFPA’s US funding will be restored next year.

You read more about the Republican ban on money to help poor women and infants by reading the “Alas” UNFPA posts archive; or by reading posts at Miss Pen Name, Republic of T, Population Matters, Peace, Love, Pancakes, and others; or by browsing through the documents and links about UNFPA on Congresswoman Mahoney’s website.

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