As a country, the United States has faithfully contributed to international organizations that work on promoting the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls, helping couples and women have safe pregnancies, safe delivery, helping children to live beyond their first day on earth, preventing unwanted pregnancies and reducing abortions. One of those organizations is UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Working with governments and organizations on the frontlines, UNFPA provides services to prevent unintended pregnancies, and fistula prevention and rehabilitation. Its work in addressing gender-based violence and child marriage, and services to refugee women fleeing war-torn countries and regions, are equally crucial. With U.S. funding in 2016 alone, UNFPA estimates that it was able to save the lives of 2,340 women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth, provide 1,251 fistula surgeries and prevent 295,000 unsafe abortions.
On April 3, 2017, the State Department sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Foreign Assistance announcing the cessation of funding to UNFPA. The State Department stated that the decision is based on UNFPA work in facilitating abortions in China. This assertion is incorrect and easily corrected using the State Department’s own findings from 2002 and 2015. Visits under Presidents Bush and Obama to UNFPA’s China programs have found no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization, and that the program continues to have a positive impact in China.
Defunding UNFPA puts millions of women and children at risk of death and disabilities and undermines progress made in maternal and child health. UNFPA’s work is life-saving and cannot be jeopardized because of misinformation. Over the years, UNFPA has built robust and efficient infrastructure, supporting local governments and civil society organizations to provide timely and effective maternal and child health services. UNFPA’s services are critical to achieving the sustainable development goals and to saving lives and building sustainable communities. It will be difficult for the U.S. government to so quickly divert resources and have the infrastructure to accomplish what UNFPA accomplishes. Too many mothers and children around the world are in danger.
We call upon the Administration to reverse the decision to defund UNFPA and on Congress to ensure that the Administration cannot deny funding to UNFPA in the future. Each year, one million newborn children die on the first day of their lives because of lack of maternal and child health services. UNFPA is actively reducing this number. With UNFPA’s reduced capacity, more newborns will die, and more women will lose their lives or sustain life-long injuries such as obstetric fistula.
“The United Methodist Church believes that health care is a basic human right.” The Church “affirms the right of men and women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health and family planning for information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV.” (Social Principles: 162. V)
Consequently, we must use our voices to challenge the misinformation that will risk the lives of millions of women and children.
Call the White House and your member of Congress and let them know you, as a United Methodist, stand with UNFPA to save millions of women and children globally.
For more information on UNFPA and their work around the world, click here.