The United States has said it will not support the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the third year in a row, the UN agency announced on Tuesday morning.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States will not contribute the expected $32.5 million to the agency. The funding instead will be transferred to the US Agency for International Development, where it will be used for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City policy, as well as maternal and reproductive health activities.
Pompeo said the United States would not support the UNFPA because of its partnership with the Chinese government through its office in that country.
"China's family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices," a state department spokeswoman said.
The State Department said that, according to the fund’s own materials, the agency “partners on family planning with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies."
The UNFPA denies that its work in the country is related to sterilization or abortion. Sarah Craven, the chief of the UNFPA’s office in Washington, DC, told CNN that the agency is “trying to end (China’s) sex-selective abortion and coercive birth limits,” and that they are in no way assisting the Chinese government with these goals.
“It’s literally the opposite,” said Craven to CNN.
The UNFPA also denies that their work is contributing to abortion or sterilization, and was critical of the United States’ decision to once again forego funding the agency.
“UNFPA has not yet seen the evidence to justify the serious claims made against its work,” said the organization in a statement published to its website. “UNFPA does not perform, promote or fund abortion, and we accord the highest priority to universal access to voluntary family planning, which helps prevent abortions from occurring.”
Additionally, the UNFPA said it “opposes coercive practices, such as forced sterilization and coerced abortions,” and considers them to be human rights abuses.
While the agency maintains its separation from coercive use of abortion and sterilization, the use of both practices as tools of population control have been closely contested.
The Holy See’s Permanent Observer mission to the United Nations has long warned of the use of coercive policies in matters of population. In a major address to the International Conference on Population and Development in September 1994, the then Vatican diplomat to the UN Archbishop Renato Martino told the conference that women are often the “primary victims” of population policies which “often tended towards coercion and pressure, especially through the setting of targets for providers.”
Martino specifically cited the practice of promoting sterilization to women as a “family planning” option, often without the women understanding the permanence of the procedure. He also noted the increasing campaign to recognize abortion as a “human right.”
In April of this year, the Holy See’s current Permanent Observer to the UN, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, spoke at a conference held to evaluate the progress made since the 1994 summit.
In his speech, Auza underscored the Church’s opposition to ongoing attempts at the UN to legitimize and promote abortion as a human right and to see it as a legitimate tool in population control.
“Suggesting that reproductive health includes a right to abortion explicitly violates the language of the  International Conference on Population and Development, defies moral and legal standards within domestic legislations, and divides efforts to address the real needs of mothers and children, especially those yet unborn,” he said.