UNFPA Funding

Background: On August 15, 1985, what came to be called the Kemp-Kasten Amendment was enacted into law for the first time: “None of the funds made available in this bill nor any unobligated balances from prior appropriations may be made available to any organization or program which, as determined by the President of the United States, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

From then to the present, this amendment has continued to be part of the annual foreign operations appropriations law. Relying on this amendment, the Reagan and Bush Administrations denied funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for its support of China’s coercive population control program.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration reinterpreted the amendment to mean that “direct” support for coercion was in violation of the law and released funding to the UNFPA. Throughout most of the years of the Clinton Administration, Congress fought over funding the UNFPA. In 2002, the Bush Administration again invoked the Kemp-Kasten Amendment and denied all funding to the UNFPA. Thereafter, abortion proponents expressed their intent to amend the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. In 2004, the Kemp- Kasten Amendment was signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (Public Law 108-447).

Between-sessions Hearing: On December 14, 2004, after adjournment of the 108th Congress, the House Committee on International Relations held a hearing on “China’s One Child Policy and Human Rights Abuses.” The hearing was chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). Witnesses included officials from the U.S. Department of State, Amnesty International, Mr. Harry Wu, Mr. John Aird, Ms. Ma Dongfang, who has been granted asylum in the United States. The hearing documented that, despite news reports to the contrary, China’s coercive one-child population control policy continues.

Opening his carefully documented testimony, Mr. Aird noted that in recent years foreign media has sometimes asserted that rampant coercive family planning measures in China have become rare. But this is not so. “Articles in Chinese professional journals and statements by high Chinese officials indicate that the program remains coercive, that the current birth rate in China is below the level acceptable to people in rural China, that local family planning officials are still accountable for the attainment of their population targets, and that program enforcement must continue for at least the next fifty years.”

Mr. Aird observes that in the last four or five years journalists have reported “instances of violent family planning measures more extreme than any reported previously in the one-child policy’s 25-year history.” Various horrendous examples were provided by Mr. Aird and the other witnesses. 

House: On June 16, 2005, during consideration of the Fiscal Year 2006 Science, State, Justice, Commerce Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2862), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) offered an amendment that would exempt U.S. funds given to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) from any regulations in U.S. law. The UNFPA supports China’s coercive population control program and in this circumstance U.S. law allows the president to deny funding. The Maloney amendment was rejected, 192-yes, 233-no, 8-not voting (Roll Call 266).

Senate: The Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3057), approved on July 20, 2005, contained language that would overturn the Mexico City Policy (see above) and weakens the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. The president stated that if these provisions remained in H.R. 3057, he would veto the bill. The offending language was removed in conference. On November 14, 2005  the president signed H.R. 3057 into law with the Kemp-Kasten Amendment intact (Public Law 109-102).

Administration: On September 17, 2005, the U.S. State Department announced that the UNFPA was not eligible to receive the $34 million appropriated for them for Fiscal Year 2005. Since 2002, “we have continuously called on China to end its program of coercive abortion. We have also repeatedly urged China and the UN Population Fund to restructure the organization’s programs in a way that would allow the United States to provide funding.” The Department’s press release concludes: “However, since no key changes have taken place, these restrictions [the Kemp-Kasten Amendment] are being applied again.” 

In a statement of commendation for this action, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) noted that the funds can be redirected elsewhere. “If only UNFPA would lobby the Chinese government to prohibit forced abortions as aggressively as they lobby the United States to overturn the law against coercion, there would be less suffering in China right now.” Also see the September 12 Time magazine story, “Enemies of the State? How local officials in China launched a brutal campaign of forced abortions and sterilizations.”


For NCHLA Fact Sheet, “Funding UNFPA: China’s Coercive Population Control Program,” see: nchla.org/factdisplay.asp?ID=21.

For the legislative history of the amendment from its origins in Fiscal Years 1984 and 1985 up to Fiscal Year 2003, see: nchla.org/docdisplay.asp?ID=116.