GOP Abandons Facts, Takes Its War On Women Overseas

October 06, 2011 4:28 pm ET — Kate Conway

United Nations

Even though jobs and the economy remain the issues Americans most want to see their representatives focus on, the GOP has carved out plenty of time for its pet-project social issues. In particular, Republicans have launched a war on women's reproductive health, largely focused on restricting access to abortion. Often, the measures aimed at preventing women from accessing their Supreme Court-confirmed legal right are patronizingly sold as provisions that will "protect" them. But nearly as often, the purportedly pro-life measures target funding and programs that have little to do with abortion, but everything to do with the life-saving preventive health care and abortion-preventing contraception many women rely on.

And the GOP's assault on women's health care isn't limited to the United States. In addition to supporting the reinstatement of the "global gag rule," which would deny all U.S. aid — even HIV prevention funding — to any international NGO that even counsels women on where to obtain a safe abortion, Republicans have now moved on a measure that would prevent any U.S. aid from going to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA):

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that zeroes out U.S. aid to the United Nations Population Fund, a women and children's health program that works to reduce maternal mortality, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide contraception to the world's most vulnerable populations.

House Republicans say they are pushing the legislation because the fund, known as the UNFPA, is complicit in China's controversial one-child policy, which enforces abortion and sterilization. The bill would save the U.S. government $400 million over 10 years.

But there's evidence that the measure is less about scolding China than it is about making a subtle statement on the worth of investing money in women's well-being. According to the Huffington Post, Republicans' allegations about the UNFPA's entanglement with China's inappropriate population control strategy are downright false:

But according to the UNFPA, the organization has no involvement with China's one-child efforts. The UNFPA says it does not support abortion as a method of family planning and does not send any American funds to China. ... "Not one dime of U.S. money goes to China, and not one dime goes to abortion," Sarah Craven, chief of the Washington office of the UNFPA, told HuffPost. 

While this time around the effort to defund UNFPA is part of a much larger assault on abortion rights and reproductive health in general, it's not new; it's merely a new incarnation of a multi-decade anti-family-planning crusade revived every time the GOP finds itself with some power. In 2001, President Bush froze U.S. contributions to the Population Fund at the urging of a right-wing congressman who baselessly cited human rights abuses in China. Yet a fact-finding team handpicked by Bush himself and sent to China to investigate found "no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC [People's Republic of China]," and recommended that the U.S.'s UNFPA funding be restored.

Moreover, the Population Fund explicitly states that one of areas in which it helps governments is "prevention of abortion." Instead, what U.S. money does support is the Population Fund's mission "to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect." Hardly a controversial set of goals, unless you're an ideologue offended by the very concept of family planning.