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Help the world's poorest; As world population hits 7 billion, Congress should fund U.N. agency

Welcome to Monday. What's new? Well, the 7 billionth person on Earth was born today and it's a cause for concern rather than a giant birthday cake.

Why concern? The baby will likely have been born to an impoverished woman somewhere in Africa or southern Asia knowing the kind of grinding poverty that leaves people without something as important as clean water.

It was only 12 years ago that the world reached the 6 billion mark in population, and conditions haven't changed for many of the world's poorest. What also hasn't changed much is the party line battle over America's contribution to the United Nations Population Fund, which the United States helped found in the late 1960s. Republican administrations typically have withheld funds from the group, but Obama restored the money.

Republicans have been critical of the organization's efforts in China, which limits urban families to one child and rural families to two if the first is a girl. That rule to stem population growth has resulted in human rights abuses, such as forced sterilizations and abortions.

Democrats insist the fund shouldn't be penalized for China's laws and point to other good work in Haiti, the Congo and other countries.

The fund says it does not support coercive birth control, one-child policies or sex selection in China. President Obama requested $47.5 million in fiscal year 2012 for the organization, which helps women and children in developing countries with reproductive health and family planning.

The House version of the spending bill for fiscal year 2012 defunds the organization. The Senate is moving ahead with plans to give $40 million to the organization funding. That effort should come to the floor on Wednesday.

And then there's a separate bill, H.R. 2059, spearheaded by Rep. Renee Ellmers from North Carolina, to permanently defund the organization. That bill passed in committee along party lines. House Democrats had offered a number of amendments to that designed to continue funding for certain specific places, including disaster areas, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and such issues as family planning and prevention of female genital mutilation, child marriage, coercive abortions and sterilizations. None of those amendments passed.

The Senate and House will have to negotiate the final funding for the U.N. fund. The Senate should stick to its plan to fund the important work of the agency as it deals with an ever-expanding population.

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