The US state separtment said on Monday that it was ending US funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the international body’s agency focused on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries.
In a letter to US Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Corker, the state department said it was dropping the funding because the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) "supports, or participates in the management of, a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation".
The cut marks US president Donald Trump's first move to curtail funding for the United Nations and is likely to raise further questions about how deep those cuts will eventually go throughout the organisation, where the United States is the top donor.
It comes after Mr Trump in January reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy that withholds US funding for international organisations that perform abortions or provide information about abortion.
Known by critics as the “global gag” rule, Mr Trump broadened its scope to include all global health assistance in his January 23rd executive order that withholds at least half a billion dollars in US funds. A lack of clarity around the rule, however, has left aid groups scrambling and both Republican and Democratic US lawmakers seeking clarity.
In a statement on its website, UNFPA said it regrets the US decision to end funding, which it said is based on an "erroneous claim" that the agency supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China.
UNFPA said its mission is “to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled”.
“The support we received over the years from the government and people of the United States has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises,” the statement said.
The cut follows Mr Trump’s proposed 28 per cent budget reduction for diplomacy and foreign aid, including an unspecified reduction in financial support for the United Nations and its agencies, announced last month.
UN agencies such as the UNFPA are funded by governments voluntarily. The United States was the fourth-largest voluntary donor to UNFPA in 2015, giving $75 million in core budget and earmarked contributions.
UN officials have warned that abrupt funding cuts could trigger more global instability and argued that dollars for diplomacy are more effective than military spending in combating terrorism.