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UN Agency Elusive About Abortion Aid for Tsunami Victims

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) describes itself as the "largest international public sector supplier of contraceptives, condoms and other reproductive health essentials," and states that such supplies are "critical to protecting reproductive health in emergency situations." Yet in press releases on its tsunami relief activities, UNFPA steers clear of directly stating that it provides contraceptives or abortion aids. UNFPA may be responding to past public criticism after disclosures that it was providing such supplies.

In its January 6 press release, the latest and most explicit to date, UNFPA has requested $28 million in donations for, among other things, "the reestablishment of basic reproductive health services" in Indonesia, the re-establishment of "reproductive health services," purchases of "reproductive health commodities" and promotion of "adolescent reproductive health" in the Maldives, and to meet "urgent reproductive health needs" and "restore" and raise awareness of "emergency reproductive health services" in Sri Lanka.

According to UNFPA's "Reproductive Health in Emergency Situations" manual, the "reproductive health needs" of refugees include "guaranteeing the availability of free condoms." Indeed, UNFPA's website says that "Free condoms are among the first reproductive health supplies to reach people caught in a crisis situation...UNFPA provides both male and female condoms in emergencies."

The manual also describes the "reproductive health kits" developed by UNFPA for "the initial acute phase of the emergency," which include "condoms," "oral and injectable contraceptives" including the abortifacient morning-after pills, and "IUD[s]." The kits also contain manual vacuum aspirators, portable abortion devices that are easily used in primitive conditions such as refugee areas.

The supplies in the kits are "stored by UNFPA in preparation for immediate distribution when an earthquake, flood...or other crisis arises." Thus, UNFPA is able to "mount a quick response to emergencies, especially in the initial stages [and] can ship out supplies of condoms and other commodities within a few days." In 2003, UNFPA shipped out over 300 of these "reproductive health kits" to 34 "emergency destinations." [Each reproductive health kit is designed to assist populations totaling between 10,000-150,000 for up to three months.] UNFPA has not disclosed whether it is providing these kits for tsunami refugees.

UNFPA's increasing caution in revealing the full extent of its activities may be the result of past public relations flops. In 1999, UNFPA faced public criticism after it was revealed that it had distributed reproductive health kits to Albanian refugee camps. The Population Research Institute, among others, claimed that UNFPA had "constructed a 'social marketing' campaign to fabricate demand" for contraceptives and abortifacients among a "captive audience" of refugees.

According to its mandate, UNFPA should not participate in any efforts to increase access to abortion or to provide the medical or technical expertise to facilitate abortion. However, numerous reports from both governmental and nongovernmental sources reveal that UNFPA aggressively promotes abortion.

Copyright 2004 - C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

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