(CNSNews.com) - Conservatives stepped up their criticism of China's practice of so-called coercive abortion at a conference held Thursday in Washington, D.C., dismissing calls by some members of Congress to once again support the U.N. Population Fund.
Leaders of the Population Research Institute and Concerned Women for American lashed out at the UNFPA's operations in China, highlighting new evidence they said shows the Asian nation continues to force women to abort children.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), a longtime critic of the UNFPA's family planning efforts, said the agency stooped to a new low when it unveiled and expanded its future endeavors in China.
"[The UNFPA is] really aiding and abetting a dictatorship that has declared war on its women and on its unborn and newly born children, mostly girls," said Smith, vice chairman of the House International Relations Committee. "It is a crime against women, it is a crime against humanity and it's about time the international community more fully recognizes that."
Nearly all the speakers, including some natives of China, praised President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell for cutting $34 million in U.S. aid to the UNFPA last year. The decision came in response to the UNFPA's refusal to cease operations in China.
Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher read portions of documents he said investigators obtained in China. They included testimonials from doctors who performed abortions and women who were forced to have them.
"Our testimony of eyewitnesses and people who were executors, if not executioners, of China's one-child policies make it clear that babies are being killed, even up to the point of childbirth," Mosher said.
A spokesman for the UNFPA declined to comment on the report until he could review the Population Research Institute's evidence.
Mosher used the occasion to describe the experience of a Chinese doctor, who told the group his observations last month. If for some reason a fetus is not aborted by poison, he said, doctors and nurses are told not to let the baby cry for fear of sending the mother into hysteria.
If the baby is still alive, Mosher explained, a nurse will place a hand over its mouth, then drown it in a garbage can filled with water.
"We believe this evidence is sufficient to rule out any possibility of restoring or resuming funding to the U.N. Population Fund this year or as long as it is involved in China," he said.
But Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, said some members of Congress have ignored the evidence on China's practices and are calling for the United States to restore the $34 million it withheld last year. Another $35 million has already been earmarked in 2003.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) bore the brunt of Rios' criticism. She said the money would be better spent by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Instead of sending the money to the UNFPA last year, the administration diverted $24 million to Afghanistan and the rest to Pakistan in programs administered by USAID.
"While Washington plays games, women in both countries suffer," Rios said. "The indignities for Afghan women trying to fulfill their roles as mothers and nurturers without the basic necessities only increase as congressmen like Leahy and Kolbe wield their intent. If they succeed, more Chinese women will be able to abort their babies courtesy of U.S. tax dollars."
The issue is at a standstill as Congress debates where the money should go in 2003. Kolbe, who is chairman of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said he will fight the administration's efforts to use the money for USAID instead of the UNFPA.
The International Center for Research on Women, a supporter of the UNFPA, criticized the administration for diverting the money away from family planning efforts.
"There's a lot of need in many countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, but money that was intended to be used for family planning, should be used for family planning," spokeswoman Cheryl Morden said.
Morden said her organization was not conducting any research in China at the moment, making it difficult to evaluate Mosher's evidence. She acknowledged, however, that women should not be coerced into making choices about abortion.
Still, she accused the United States of being inconsistent when it came to support for China's practices.
"Whatever the concerns may be, there's a double standard being applied by suspending funding through UNFPA when the U.S. government does business with the Chinese government on a number of health programs," Morden said.
The participants at Thursday's conference said the news media needed to do a better job of shedding light on the Chinese government's practices. Smith, who has confronted the Chinese about the coercion, said he would continue to press the issue in Congress.
"To think that the UNFPA continues to whitewash these crimes against humanity is unconscionable," he said. "Rather than just taking their funding away, they ought to be held accountable in a court of law."
See Earlier Stories:
Bush's 'Abortion Politics' Blamed for Deaths of Poor Women and Children (Dec. 4, 2002)
Chinese Wives of Taiwanese Men Harassed by ?One-Child Policy? Enforcers (July 19, 2002)
Pro-Lifers Warn China Will Cover up Abuses During Fact-Finding Trip (May 2, 2002)
E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.
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