34 Million Friends of UNFPA got its start in July 2002 with the coincidental, almost simultaneous, inspiration of two women, Jane Roberts and Lois Abraham. Both were outraged by the US decision to withhold from the United Nations Population Fund $34 million in congressionally appropriated funds, and each was determined to do something about it. 34 Million Friends has become a grassroots movement supported by 100,000 individuals who have contributed more than $2 million and demonstrated widespread commitment to UNFPA's work to improve the health and well-being of people around the world.
Jane Roberts, a teacher and tennis coach from Redlands, California, and Lois Abraham, a lawyer from Taos, New Mexico, had never met. But their independent inspirations to appeal to fellow Americans to donate the money their government was withholding brought them together. More than 100,000 people were as outraged as Jane and Lois by the following story. The USA made a commitment of $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund in the 2002 budget, with Congress approving the funds and President Bush signing the bill containing the appropriation. The fund provides family planning and reproductive health services to some of the world's most impoverished and underserved women in 142 countries. The US government reneged on the 2002 commitment and withheld funding in 2003 and 2004, for a total of $95 million. The reason given for refusing to release the $34 million is that the Fund provides aid to Chinese government agencies that force women to have abortions. Despite a state department investigation that found no substantiation for the allegation, the administration stuck by its decision to withhold funds. Jane and Lois wrote to fellow Americans, telling them of the consequences of a $34 million budget shortfall to the UNFPA: two million unwanted pregnancies per year, nearly 800,000 abortions, 4700 maternal deaths, and 77,000 infant and child deaths. Their initiative took flight in August and by the following May contributions had exceeded one million dollars. Contributions continue to pour in from men and women from every state in the union. The story has sparked widespread media interest and has spurred the launching of a sister campaign, Friends in the European Union, in Brussels.
34 Million Friends of UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund)