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US cuts funding to UN family planning body

The US has cut funding to the UN family planning body that provides millions of women with reproductive health services. Many of the most vulnerable women and children in the world will be impacted by the move.

The Trump administration on Monday cut US funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the international body that provides millions of women in more than 150 countries with reproductive health and family planning services.

The State Department said the United States would withdraw funding because UNFPA "supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China.

The move comes after President Donald Trump in January reinstated an expanded version of the so-called "global gag" rule, which threatens to cut about a half a billion dollars in global health assistance for international organizations that perform abortions or provide information on abortion.

In justifying its decision, the State Department said China's two-child policy resulted in forced abortions and sterilizations, and accused the UNFPA of participating in Chinese policies. 

"While there is no evidence that UNFPA directly engages in coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations in China, the agency continues to partner with the Chinese Health and Family Planning Commission on family planning, and thus can be found to support, or participate in the management of China's coercive policies," the State Department said.

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'Erroneous claim'

UNFPA responded in a statement by thanking the US for its prior contributions, but said it was an "erroneous claim" it supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China.

UNFPA's mission is "to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled."

UNFPA works on a host of women's issues, ranging from a campaign to end fistula and female genital mutilation to combating child marriage and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

In 2015, UNFPA helped 18 million women access modern contraceptives and reproductive health services in 46 of the world's poorest countries. It provides basic maternity services, including ensuring safe birth in war-torn countries, disaster zones and refugee camps.

Trump last month proposed a budget that would cut US diplomacy and aid by 28 percent, including cuts at the United Nations. The UN has warned funding cuts will cause greater global instability and reduce its ability to respond to a growing list of humanitarian crises.

The US is the fourth largest contributor to the UNDP, paying $78 million (73 million euros) annually, out of a roughly $1 billion UNFPA budget. A number of European governments and organizations have vowed to step in to fill the budget shortfall caused by the US withdrawal from funding. 

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cw/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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