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(Host) The Bush administration has declined to release the $34 million Congress has approved for the UN Population Fund. Commentator Ruth Page explains why she sees this as a terrible mistake.

(Page) The Bush administration doesn’t believe the world has a population problem. How do I know? Because the United States is withholding $34 million that Congress already appropriated for the United Nations Population Fund.

What effect will this decision by the administration have? According to the New York Times, a spokesman for the Fund said estimates show it could mean two million unwanted pregnancies among recipients of family planning assistance. Thousands of needed contraceptives won’t be available. The spokesman said that can lead to 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths.

It’s also seriously discouraging for the agencies that have been trying to improve the tragic lives of many women in needy countries. Workers know that if destitute women can get a basic education, they will also wish to both space out their children and control total numbers. That allows many to move out of desperate poverty. Education empowers people. Knowing how to read and write, understanding the issues that affect your village, your state and your country, improves your life and your children’s. Family planning goes hand in hand with educating women.

Many agencies are devotedly trying to help families at the bottom of the food and health chain. Their work is exhausting. They work daily among heart-breaking tragedies, and they deserve respect and support from all of us. Thoraya Obaid, the population fund’s executive director, says the U.S. contribution represents a major part of the budget. And it’s cut off just as field workers are seeing results from their efforts. Ms. Obaid says some 120 million women are demanding contraceptives to help them space out births, or stop having more babies so they can care for the ones they already have.

Ms. Obaid said in a speech to the U.N., “Today we are faced with a paradox. The need for reproductive health services is great and growing. At the same time, the funding for such services is declining.” Why has the U.S. taken this step? Because some anti-abortion groups have falsely claimed that part of our money is going to China, which forces abortions. Ms. Obaid says no American money is used in China. Even UN money from other countries is only used in Chinese counties where the one-child family is no longer enforced.

The Bush administration, asked to release this Congress-approved money, offers their standard answer. They’ll study it.. They said they’d send some fact-finders to China; but so far, no such delegation has been formed. Meanwhile, thousands of poor families seek family-planning help in vain.

This is Ruth Page, talking with you about our country’s reluctance to help solve Earth’s most desperate problem: over-population.

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