Lawmakers Call for Investigation of USAID Money Used for Forced Abortions

July 7, 2008 - 8:25 PM

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Citing evidence gathered by a leading watchdog of abuses of women, GOP lawmakers Tuesday called on the US Agency for International Development to investigate allegations the Peruvian government is using US aid money to force poor Peruvian women to undergo sterilization.

"The spirit if not the letter of the Tiahrt amendment has been violated," Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), said at a Capitol Hill news conference hosted by the Population Research Institute (PRI), which investigated the abuses.

Tiahrt is the principal sponsor of the Tiahrt amendment, a measure signed into law in October 1998 that prohibits U.S. funds from going to non-voluntary foreign family planning programs.

PRI's investigators said they found that the Peruvian Ministry of Health's Family Planning Program, of which USAID is the primary benefactor, overwhelming targets poor minority women.

Tiahrt called on USAID to send their own investigators to the Latin American country to examine allegations that Peruvian agencies are using U.S. taxpayer dollars to promote programs that coerce poor women into being sterilized and are being forced to accept various methods of family planning, regardless of beliefs.

PRI investigators cited numerous examples of native women who alleged they were verbally abused, falsely diagnosed, mistreated, threatened, and otherwise coerced into allowing themselves to be sterilized. Many women agreed to family planning methods because they were afraid of angering officials who controlled other programs they needed, PRI officials reported.

Steven W. Mosher, PRI president, said victims and Peruvian doctors who furnished investigators with evidences of abuses declined to testify in public for fear of reprisals by Peruvian authorities. PRI investigators cited examples of women who told them that Peruvian medical personnel had recommended last-minute cesarean deliveries and sterilization, in violation of the Tiahrt amendment, which prohibits U.S. funds from going to programs that do not provide informed consent.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) a co-sponsor of the Tiahrt amendment, praised PRI's investigative work.

"We can't just take government officials' word that abuses have ended when the evidence suggests otherwise," he said.

The Clinton administration has promised to increase foreign aid for family planning to record levels this congressional year. But abuses in existing programs such as those found in Peru should be corrected before consideration is given to additional funding, Mosher said.

The U.S. government through USAID provides $36 million in funding for family planning programs run by the Peruvian government Ministry of Health and by non-governmental organizations working there.