The WHO Abortion Agenda: Another Reason to Defund It

By | April 23, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 24 (C-Fam) President Donald Trump announced last week that he was holding $400-$500 million in funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including WHO’s parroting misleading talking points from the Chinese government.

Yet prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the WHO was already highly politicized and engaged in controversial activities.  A closer examination of the WHO’s promotion of abortion, which current U.S. foreign policy opposes, might lend support to the U.S. government choosing instead to bilaterally fund the eradication of disease and preventable deaths in the future.

A recent WHO guideline on essential services during the pandemic called for provision of “safe abortion to the full extent of the law.”  Abortion activists continue to call for a stronger statement, framing it as a public health rather than legal issue.

Longstanding consensus by UN member nations holds that the legal status of abortion is for individual countries to determine, and not an international human right.  Nevertheless, the WHO has taken the position that, with regard to those rights agreed by international consensus, “[a]ccess to legal and safe abortion is essential for the realization of these rights.”

The WHO has issued a series of guidance on “safe” abortion, recommending limits on the conscience protections of health workers, expanding the provision of abortion to a wider pool of health care workers including nurses and midwives, and lowering the stringency of safety standards in order to maximize access to the procedure.

A recent WHO guideline states that “self-care” practices have “perhaps the greatest potential to address unmet needs or demands” in situations including “self-managed medical abortion in countries where abortion is illegal or restricted.”

WHO has also moved steadily toward adding abortion drugs to its essential medicines list, following extensive pressure from abortion advocates.

In addition to being dangerous to women and their unborn children, these actions are also in contrast to U.S. laws and policies.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration restricts the distribution of abortion-causing pills by mail, despite lobbying by abortion proponents that they relax this standard in response to COVID-19.

In order to pressure countries to liberalize their position on abortion, the WHO created a database of national abortion laws, with the purpose of eliminating “the barriers that women encounter in accessing safe abortion services.”

The Trump administration has taken steps to defund international organizations that lobby governments to change their abortion laws. Last year, the U.S. cut funding to some organs of the Organization of American States that were promoting abortion in Latin America, citing the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits U.S. funds from being used to lobby for or against abortion in foreign countries.

The U.S. under President Trump also defunded the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), citing both its promotion of abortion and its collaboration with the Chinese government, notorious for its coercive family planning policies.

The WHO was previously led by the Chinese Dr. Margaret Chan, who was replaced as Director-General in 2017 by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian who was “aggressively” supported by the Chinese government and welcomed by abortion advocacy groups, as he was credited with liberalizing Ethiopia’s abortion laws during his tenure as the country’s health minister.

Within the WHO, specific departments have been at the forefront of promoting abortion.  Chief among them is the Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) is a special program whose additional partners include other UN agencies including UNFPA as well as the International Planned Parenthood Federation.  Its most recent donor list from 2017 includes the U.S. government.