Openness to life is at the center of true development. ~ Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate
In April of this year, President Trump temporarily halted funding from the World Health Organization over concerns that it had grossly mishandled the COVID-19 crisis. Since then, he has threatened to make the decision to withhold funding permanent.
For the WHO, the loss of U.S. funding is no small thing: The U.S.’s contributions of some $400-$500 million per year to the WHO amount to approximately 14 percent of the organization’s operating budget.
However, for pro-life Americans—and indeed pro-life individuals globally—the Trump administration’s decision was welcome for a reason completely separate from the organization’s missteps on the pandemic. The WHO has long been one of the most pro-abortion organizations on the planet, using the ostensibly humanitarian nature of its mission as cover to promote the killing of preborn babies throughout the world.
The same is true of a number of departments and organizations associated with the United Nations. The UN was founded as a political body intended to protect peace and uphold human rights around the world, yet large segments have been hijacked by radical pro-abortion activists. Disturbingly, the UN’s pro-abortion agenda has been on prominent display throughout the coronavirus pandemic, as various agencies—including the WHO—have attempted to promote abortion access as somehow being a crucial part of the response to the pandemic.
Trump Admin Opposes Hijacking COVID-19 for Abortion Advocacy
Thankfully, the Trump administration has been at the forefront of the efforts to get out ahead of this anti-life agenda.
In a letter dated May 18, John Barsa, the acting USAID administrator, blasted the United Nations’ drafted “Global Humanitarian Response Plan.” The Global HRP is supposed to be the UN’s formal reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, laying out a united global plan for how to respond. However, instead of putting a laser focus on the pandemic, the statement included troubling and divisive language promoting abortion.
In his letter, Barsa urged the UN not to use the pandemic “as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service.’” “Unfortunately,” Barsa continued, “the Global HRP does just this, by cynically placing the provision of ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ on the same level of importance as food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation. Most egregious is that the Global HRP calls for the widespread distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies, and for the promotion of abortion in local country settings.”
Barsa made it clear to UN Secretary General António Guterres that the U.S. will—quoting President Trump’s address to the UN—“never tire of defending innocent life.” “Indeed, the UN should not intimidate or coerce Member States that are committed to the right to life,” he continued. “To use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to pressure governments to change their laws is an affront to the autonomy of each society to determine its own national policies on health care. The United States stands with nations that have pledged to protect the unborn.”
Amen. I will never tire of seeing the leadership of our country stepping forward and boldly defending the dignity and right to life of the preborn on the global stage.
Just last week, the Trump administration also rejected another attempt to insert pro-abortion language into a UN document. In a statement entitled the “U.S. Mission to the United Nations,” the administration said that it would not sign on to the proposed resolution for the 2020 ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment at the UN, specifically due to the inclusion of the terms “sexual and reproductive health care services” and “sexual and reproductive health.” These terms are understood by many UN bureaucrats to include not only contraception, but legalized abortion.
“The United States rejects any interpretation of international human rights to require any State Party to provide access to abortion,” the U.S. statement said bluntly.
Austin Ruse, the head of the pro-life organization C-FAM, which lobbies at the UN, said in response: “This is a great victory for pro-lifers around the world who are justifiably concerned that COVID funding would be used to promote abortion in humanitarian assistance. We thank the Trump administration for taking this strong stance in favor of true humanitarian assistance and in favor of the unborn child.”
The WHO’s Extensive Abortion Advocacy
In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his dismay that international organizations were using their clout to promote abortion, particularly in third world nations. He wrote:
Some non-governmental organizations work actively to spread abortion, at times promoting the practice of sterilization in poor countries, in some cases not even informing the women concerned. Moreover, there is reason to suspect that development aid is sometimes linked to specific healthcare policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures. Further grounds for concern are laws permitting euthanasia as well as pressure from lobby groups, nationally and internationally, in favor of its juridical recognition.
The Holy Father wrote movingly of the ills that NGOs are guilty of when they promote abortion instead of authentic development. “Openness to life is at the center of true development,” he said. He continued:
When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fiber and makes people capable of mutual help. By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual.
Unfortunately, as one recent in-depth study makes clear, the WHO—which should, by virtue of its name, be promoting health—is one of the leading organizations promoting the “suppression of life” rather than an “openness to life.” In a white paper entitled The World Health Organization’s Abortion Overreach, Dr. Rebecca Oas exposes how the WHO is lobbying to legalize abortion throughout the world and strives to make abortion more prevalent by promoting the use of dangerous abortion drugs, including those taken without medical supervision. She also exposes how, in some cases, the WHO has trained doctors in pro-life countries to perform abortions and promotes “comprehensive sexuality education” that includes pro-abortion propaganda aimed at children. In addition, her white paper explains how the WHO’s abortion advocacy has distracted the organization from addressing the actual healthcare needs of women and infants.
Dr. Oas traces many of these shady activities to the WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research (SRH). Behind the SRH is a group of wealthy, pro-abortion Western nations and nonprofits—including the Ford, MacArthur, and Packard Foundations—as well as (unsurprisingly) International Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, in the latest records available (2016-17), the United States was also listed as a donor to the SRH.
Another outsized influence, observes Dr. Oas, is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the second largest donor to the WHO, second only to the United States. Dr. Oas notes that the influence of this foundation is troubling, since it “derives its influence from the wealth of a single family, and is not subject to the norms that govern the UN and its agencies, such as the need for global consensus.” While the Gates Foundation carefully massages its messaging to focus on contraception rather than abortion, it also donates huge sums of money to leading abortion organizations, like Marie Stopes International and International Planned Parenthood. With the Gates Foundations’ deep pockets and enormous influence at the WHO, it’s unsurprising that the WHO has increasingly openly promoted abortion, despite the opposition to abortion held by many UN Member States.
In the end, the clear picture that emerges from the evidence presented by Dr. Oas is that the WHO is diligently working to give a veneer of credibility to abortion by calling it “essential health care” and then using its considerable wealth and power to impose abortion—in flagrant violation of the law if necessary—in developing nations. The same is true of other UN agencies, including the UN Population Fund, UN Women, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). With a $50-billion-a-year budget, the UN is arguably the biggest engine of the Culture of Death today. That is why pro-lifers everywhere can celebrate the Trump administration’s decision to halt funding to the WHO as well as to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with its horrific history of supporting coercive abortion and sterilization.
However, as Dr. Oas argues, it is time to go further. Until the UN and WHO stop meddling in the affairs of pro-life nations and pushing the killing of innocent human beings under the guise of “health care,” they should never again receive another dime of U.S. taxpayer money.