H.R. 2059, to prohibit funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening statement at today’s full committee mark-up of H.R. 2059, to prohibit funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

This legislation – like the State Department authorization bill we marked up in July, and the UN bill we will soon consider – will undermine America’s influence and standing in the international community.

It’s an example of civilian cut-and-run par excellence.

Tragically, the bill takes aim at poor women and children in the developing world – women and children who all too often suffer from the effects of disease, war, rape and a host of absolutely horrid conditions that few of us can even begin to imagine.

Rather than helping these desperate people – as UNFPA seeks to do – the legislation makes them pawns in a debate over social issues that often seems divorced from reality.

Indeed, I can think of few other organizations subject to more misinformation, misunderstanding, and outright falsehoods than UNFPA.

I know that discussing UNFPA generates a lot of emotion among some of my colleagues, but that doesn’t mean that passionate arguments should be allowed to trump the facts.

UNFPA does not promote abortion as a method of family planning. Period.

UNFPA is guided by the Cairo Program of Action, which is quite clear in stating, quote “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”

All one has to do is visit UNFPA’s website to find that, quote “UNFPA does not support or promote abortion as a method of family planning.”

During the last Administration, the State Department conducted an investigation of the organization and found, quote: “no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the People’s Republic of China.”

I know that for many here, UNFPA’s own words and those of the State Department on this issue may ring hollow.

So I’d ask you to consider the position of the late Henry Hyde, the author of the Hyde Amendment. When he was Chairman of this Committee, he passed a very tough UN bill through the House, which would have ended a great deal of U.S. support for the UN.

Yet even his bill didn’t defund UNFPA.

Today, we are being asked to permanently end assistance to an organization working to prevent cholera among pregnant women and people living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti, lowering the maternal mortality rate in Rwanda, and protecting women in Kenya fleeing from famine and war across the Horn of Africa.

Rather than lobbing another grenade in our culture wars, this Committee should be working to strengthen maternal mortality prevention efforts, improve the capacity of health systems in the developing world, and protect women from rape as an instrument of war.

If you want to prevent abortions this is what we should be doing. And that is exactly what UNFPA does.