Reform Jewish Movement Dismayed at Bush Administration Refusal to Release Funds to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Pelavin: We urge Congress to act to ensure that funds will be available for the UNFPA now and in the future and support the Senate and those members of Congress who are determined to reinstate the funding.
Contact:Alexis Rice or Alana Suskin
WASHINGTON, July 30, 2002 - This week, President Bush announced that the United States will not pay its anticipated $34 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We are dismayed by the Bush Administration's refusal to provide funding for the UNFPA. UNFPA provides family planning, maternal and child health, and sexually transmitted infection prevention and treatment services to millions of people in 142 developing countries worldwide. In November 2001, President Bush sent $600,000 to the UNFPA for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan. In addition, in Senate testimony last year, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that UNFPA does "invaluable work" and "provides critical population assistance in developing countries."
We are disappointed that the Administration caved to anti-choice organizations and lawmakers who urged President Bush not to allocate a single dollar to UNFPA, even though the program does not pay directly for abortion. The decision not to release the funds, reached by the State Department in coordination with the White House, accepts the claims of abortion opponents that the fund tacitly perpetuates a "one-child" policy in China that has led to abortions and sterilizations, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support this claim.
In January, the White House temporarily froze the funds, saying it needed time to investigate the claims about China. A State Department fact-finding investigation in May (which the Bush Administration has refused to release) reportedly found that UNFPA programs in China neither directly nor indirectly facilitate forced abortions or sterilization. An April investigation by a British delegation reached the same conclusion
We urge Congress to act to ensure that funds will be available for the UNFPA now and in the future and support the Senate and those members of Congress who are determined to reinstate the funding.
Jewish tradition considers the sanctity of all human life as an overriding principle to the extent that scholars, according to the Talmud, were forbidden to live in a community that did not boast a physician and a surgeon and the concept of pikuah nefesh (i.e., danger to one's life) and the prevention of disease were religious values clearly articulated in Jewish sources demanding society's intervention. Therefore, physicians were called upon to minister to all the sick regardless of religion or ethnicity, and men, women and children were given access to daily prayer and medical treatment. Protecting the health of the poor is considered so crucial that communal subsidies matched by reduced rates for poor patients have been the norm. These have been our values and commitments since Sinai and continue to guide us today. Funding UNFPA is essential to the lives of women and children all over the world, and President Bush and Members of Congress must act to preserve our commitment to these essential programs.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .