American Dollars Should Have No Part In China's Forced Sterilizations

Arielle Del Turco is FRC’s assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty. Connor Semelsberger is FRC’s Director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity. This article appeared in The Federalist on April 19, 2021.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, recently introduced a bill to prohibit funding for the United Nations Population Fund. American funding for the UNFPA has long been controversial due to the organization’s link to coercive abortion and sterilization, especially in China. America’s recent genocide determination against China over its forced sterilizations of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang makes the effort to cut U.S. funding with the UNFPA even more urgent.

Last year, the Trump administration withheld funding for the United Nations Population Fund on account of its partnership with the Chinese government, including the coercive practices that have now been declared to be genocide. Unfortunately, President Biden has already taken steps to restore federal funding of the UNFPA, although he voted against funding the UNFPA as a U.S. senator.

Since 1985, presidents have had discretion under the Kemp-Kasten Amendment to withhold funds from any organization that supports or participates in coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations. Under this provision, the United States has withheld funds from the UNFPA in 18 of the past 36 years. All of these presidential determinations have been based on the UNFPA’s cooperation with the Chinese government.

A Jamestown Foundation report found funds from the Chinese central government went towards funding sterilizations in Xinjiang, sufficient for almost 200,000 sterilizations. The UNFPA should not be partnering on “family planning” efforts with a government that brutally employs sterilization and abortion to commit genocide against a minority group. The fact that the UNFPA continues to do so is more than enough reason for the United States to halt all contributions.

In 2019, the UNFPA spent $624,204 in China on vaguely defined “integrated sexual and reproductive health services.” The UNFPA may not directly fund sterilizations and abortions in Xinjiang, but even if it doesn’t, their partnership with China’s National Health Commission allows it to divert other funds elsewhere. By partnering with the commission, the UNFPA also effectively endorses the work of an organization with ties to ongoing atrocities.

China is the world’s foremost perpetrator of coerced abortions and sterilizations. Its notorious “One Child Policy,” which lasted from 1979–2015, was responsible for preventing more than 400 million births, according to Chinese state media. Forced abortions and subsequent sterilizations were central to the program.

A former Chinese midwife interviewed in the 2019 documentary “One Child Nation” admitted to having performed between 50,000 and 60,000 abortions throughout her career. She had been told her actions were for the good of the country. Now full of regret, she testified that women were “tied up and dragged to us like pigs” for their state-ordered abortions.

Today, the Chinese government uses similarly brutal tactics to target the Uighur ethnic and religious minority group. Throughout Xinjiang, hundreds of thousands of Uighur women are forced to accept intrauterine devices and undergo sterilizations and even abortions. Those on both sides of the abortion debate can agree that coerced sterilizations or abortions are a grave violation of human dignity.

Mihrigul Tursun was luckier than most Uighur women. She survived a Chinese internment camp and managed to flee to the United States. But it came at a cost. While in the camp, she was given an unknown liquid she was told was medicine, but the treatment soon stopped her menstrual cycles. After arriving in the United States, she was heartbroken to learn that she had been sterilized.

These abuses are not confined to China’s camps. When Gulzia Mogdin was visiting from Kazakhstan, authorities in Xinjiang discovered WhatsApp on her phone, a punishable offense that prompted extra scrutiny.

Police took her to the hospital, where medical workers discovered she was pregnant with her third child. The authorities forced Mogdin to have an abortion, threatening to detain her and her brother if she resisted. She later told the Associated Press, “I cannot sleep.”

Mounting evidence of a widespread program of forced sterilization and abortion in Xinjiang was a key factor in former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s determination that the Chinese government is committing an ongoing genocide in Xinjiang. The genocide determination is significant, and it will inevitably affect U.S.-China relations moving forward.

China’s genocidal sterilization and abortion program against Uighur Muslims must be met with strong international condemnation and with genuine consequences. As the Biden administration decides how it will react to the Uighur genocide, the United States must ensure American funds do not support, even indirectly, the Chinese government’s abuse of the Uighur people.

To protect American taxpayers from being complicit in human rights abuses, the Biden administration should pause before reinstating funding to the UNFPA and consider support for Roy’s bill to defund the organization. At the very least, the U.S. government must conduct a thorough review of the UNFPA’s connection to China’s National Health Commission and the Xinjiang Health Commission.

The ongoing genocide in Xinjiang ought to prompt the United States to rethink its interactions with China on many levels, and that includes U.S. support for the UNFPA.