Hours after President Trump warned the World Health Organization that U.S. funding and membership were on the line, the U.S. on Tuesday rejected language in a WHO resolution because of concerns about promoting abortion.
At the WHO’s virtual World Health Assembly (WHA), the U.S. delegation said in a statement it was dissociating itself from two paragraphs in a broader resolution on the coronavirus pandemic, because of language used by some to assert an international right to abortion.
“We do not accept references to ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ or other language that suggests or explicitly states that access to abortion is included in the provision of population and individual level health services,” the statement said.
It said the U.S. “believes in legal protections for the unborn,” and that it rejects any interpretation of international human rights that requires a country to provide access to abortion.
“Each nation has the sovereign right to implement related programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies, free from external pressure,” the statement said. “There is no international right to abortion, nor is there any duty on the part of states to finance or facilitate abortion.”
The statement added that the U.S. does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, and does not support abortion in its global health assistance.
The two paragraphs both refer to “sexual and reproductive health.”
The first calls on member-states, as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic, to maintain the continued functioning of the health system in all relevant areas, among them “the uninterrupted and safe provision” of health services including “sexual and reproductive health.”
The second calls on member-states to provide assistance on request to others needing help in carrying out those health services, including in the area of “sexual and reproductive health.”
The phrase covers access to abortion. A recent WHO document on healthcare during the pandemic states, “Women’s choices and rights to sexual and reproductive health care should be respected irrespective of COVID-19 status, including access to contraception and safe abortion to the full extent of the law.”
Republican administrations in the U.S. have long resisted efforts to insert phrases like “reproductive health and rights” into international documents including U.N. General Assembly resolutions, usually without success.
Once included in such documents, the terms are often cited by advocacy groups as they seek to pressurize governments, especially in developing countries, to amend or throw out laws limiting abortion.
Addressing the General Assembly last September, President Trump criticized U.N. projects which he said “have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.”
“Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life,” Trump told the gathering. “Like many nations here today we in America believe that every child born and unborn is a sacred gift from God.”