Skip to content
Law Articles, News

The Kemp-Kasten Provision and UNFPA Funding

By Daniel Briggs
AUL Legal Extern

The Kemp-Kasten provision of 1985 allows the President to withhold funds from any organization that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”  Through this provision Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush have withheld funds from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

“This ability to withhold funds is significant,” writes AUL Staff Counsel Mailee Smith, particularly given the group’s “deep-seeded support of abortion and China ’s one-child policy.”[4]  UNFPA’s support of population control has been documented by the State Department.  In 2002, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell returned from a fact-finding mission in China , where he and his team found that China

has in place a regime of severe penalties on women who have unapproved births. This regime plainly operates to coerce pregnant women to have abortions . . . UNFPA’s support of, and involvement in, China’s population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion.  Therefore, it is not permissible to continue funding UNFPA at this time.[5] 

Because China ’s activities squarely meet the activity prohibited by the Kemp-Kasten provision, President Bush blocked funding to the UNFPA for seven consecutive years, amounting to $34 million per year or $235 million in all.[6]  However, in 2008 the United States still provided over $1.83 billion to the USAID Global Health and Child Survival account; in addition, the federal government provided $457 million during that time for reproductive health care, including family planning.[7]

President’s Legal Authority

The Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act provides that “[n]one of the funds available in this Act . . . 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.”[8]    

Impact of Reinstatement of UNFPA Funding

On March 11, 2009, President Obama reinstated UNFPA funding by signing the fiscal 2008 Omnibus spending measure.  As a result, millions of American tax dollars will now go towards population control initiatives that include forced abortions and sterilizations in China and perhaps other nations. The UNFPA is committed to “changing deeply rooted attitudes, behaviors and laws—especially those dealing with . . . reproductive health.”[9] With Obama’s blessing, millions of taxpayer dollars will be provided in support and furtherance of that commitment.


[4] Mailee Smith, “Kemp-Kasten Provision Under Fire,” dated 18 July 2008, available online at http://blog.aul.org/2008/07/18/kemp-kasten-provision-under-fire/ (last visited 12 January 2009).


[5] Republican Study Committee, Amendments Made in Order under the Rule (H.Res. 316) for the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 1950), dated July 15, 2003 (quoting letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell to Sen. Byrd, dated 21 July 2002), available online at http://www.house.gov/hensarling/rsc/doc/LB71503a.pdf (last visited 12 January 2009).

[6] Larry Nowels and Connie Veillette, “International Population Assistance and Family Planning Programs: Issues for Congress,” CRS Report for Congress, 26 January 2006, available online at http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/60573.pdf (last visited: 15 January 2009).

[7] U.S. State Department Press Release, “Fiscal Year 2008 Funding for the United Nations Population Fund,” 27 June 2008, available online at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/jun/106348.htm (last visited 15 January 2009).

[8] PL 109-102, 119 Stat. 2175, 14 November 2005, available online at http://clinton.senate.gov/features/darfur/documents/2005.11.14_Foreign_Ops_Approps.pdf (last visited: 15 January 2009).

[9] United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “About the United Nations Population Fund,” available online at http://www.unfpa.org/about/index.htm (last visited: 12 January 2009).