U.S. Makes First Contribution to UN Distributor of Abortion Supplies

By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. | November 4, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC, November 5 (C-Fam) On Monday, the U.S. State Department announced an inaugural $5 million contribution to UNFPA Supplies, the flagship thematic fund of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA Supplies uses donor contributions to purchase and distribute contraceptives and maternal health supplies, which includes abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem and discussed “how empowering women and girls, including by promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, advances human rights, gender equality, and global health.”

In the past, Republican administrations have withheld funding from UNFPA because of its promotion of abortion-related language in UN agreements and its historical links with the Chinese government’s draconian population control policies. Democratic administrations have restored funding to the agency. However, no prior U.S. administration has funded UNFPA Supplies, whose leading contributors include the Gates Foundation and wealthy European countries.

Among the maternal health commodities the fund distributes are a portable abortion device called the manual vacuum aspirator (MVA) kits and the abortion-inducing drugs misoprostol and mifepristone, both separately and in a combined pack. MVAs are a device that uses suction to evacuate the uterus, frequently used in early-term abortions. The drug mifepristone is commonly known as RU-486, or the “abortion pill.” Misoprostol has other uses besides abortion—it was originally used to treat gastric ulcers and has been used to treat and prevent postpartum bleeding—but mifepristone has no other reason for inclusion as a maternal health intervention except to induce abortions.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) added mifepristone to its core “essential medicines” list. This list is held up as a global standard of which drugs governments should ensure are available in every country. Following their lead, UNFPA then “engages with national governments to ensure [sexual and reproductive health and family planning] commodities are included in national essential medicines lists.”

The U.S. does not directly fund abortions overseas due to the 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act. This law has always been interpreted to prohibit the procurement of abortion-inducing commodities, which is why the U.S. Agency for International Development does not distribute MVA kits even though they can be used in cases of miscarriage or for post-abortion care when a woman is treated for complications from a prior abortion.

UNFPA Supplies has other direct links to abortion.  In crisis situations, it “operates in line with the Minimum Initial Service Package or MISP,” which was updated in 2019 to explicitly include “safe abortion care” in humanitarian settings “to the full extent of the law.”

In UNFPA Supplies’ most recent annual report, it listed as one of its accomplishments “8 countries conducted national quantification for Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) supplies including mifepristone and misoprostol.”

UNFPA Supplies also partners with abortion groups to provide services on the ground.  The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and MSI Reproductive Health (formerly Marie Stopes International) are among those who receive materials from UNFPA Supplies.  According to IPPF, some of their affiliates are “100% reliant” on the organization to operate.

Since the U.S. contribution to UNFPA Supplies does not directly fund abortions, it may escape violating the Helms Amendment, but there is no doubt that it will in effect export abortion around the world.