(CNSNews.com) - Conservatives are urging President Bush to block U.S. funding of a population control program that's been criticized for supporting "forced abortions and sterilizations" in China and elsewhere. But, if Congress gets its way, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) could get up to $34 million dollars from American taxpayers for the current fiscal year - an increase of 36 percent.
The Foreign Operations spending bill, passed by the House Wednesday, also drops language adopted in previous years that allowed the U.S. to penalize China for policies many consider coercive. The U.S. previously was able to cut its contributions to the UNFPA by the same amount the United Nations devoted to China's population control activities.
"We are outraged to find that Congress has removed a provision that penalized the UNFPA for spending money in China," said Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy for Focus On The Family.
"We urge President Bush to exercise his discretion in this matter and zero fund the UNFPA for fiscal year 2002. Mothers and children in every nation deserve nothing less," Minnery said.
Because the legislation sets a ceiling of $34 million for the UNFPA, President Bush has the authority to determine how much, if any, of the money will be allocated.
"They should get nothing if they are participating in these monstrous activities," said Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations at Concerned Women for America (CWA). "They should get zero from the U.S.
"It's up to the president to do the right thing. I hope he will and I feel that he will," Schwartz added.
The conference committee version of the Foreign Operations spending bill passed in the House overwhelmingly, with only 66 members voting no. Schwartz said he was disappointed to learn that House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who are both pro-life, supported the measure.
Neither Armey nor DeLay would comment on the matter Thursday.
Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI), said the president "has been handed the perfect opportunity to oppose forced abortion and forced sterilization in China."
"He should de-fund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) because of its support of these and other human rights abuses in China," Mosher said.
In September, PRI obtained what it called "first-hand evidence" of forced abortion and sterilization in a UNFPA county program in China. UNFPA denied it was sponsoring such activities, but PRI delivered a videotape of its evidence to the White House.
"Dozens of women told us that coercion in this UNFPA county program is worse today than ever before, and told us of the abuses which they have recently suffered, including imprisonment and the destruction of homes," Mosher said in a statement.
PRI also said Thursday it had confirmed that the UNFPA "is distributing abortion devices and chemicals, disguised in kits marked for safe delivery in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan."
Population Action International, a group committed to advancing family planning, announced it would not comment on the Foreign Operations spending bill until after the Senate had voted.
United Nations officials and United Nations Population Fund officials did not return phone calls to CNSNews.com on Thursday.