The head of a U.S. humanitarian agency is accusing the United Nations of using the coronavirus pandemic to “cynically” place abortion “on the same level of importance” as food and sanitation.
John Barsa, the acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), wrote in a May 18 letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that the United States “stands with nations that have pledged to protect the unborn.”
President Trump appointed Barsa to the position in March.
“Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump, the United States has made clear that we will ‘never tire of defending innocent life,’” Barsa wrote in the letter.
Specifically, Barsa criticizes the U.N.’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan, a 79-page document that details the United Nations’ strategy for fighting the pandemic.
“[T]he UN should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service,’” Barsa wrote. “Unfortunately, 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.”
The May Global HRP says “the pandemic is disrupting the access of women and girls … to essential services such as sexual and reproductive health services.”
“Reproductive health” is a phrase that encompasses abortion. One goal during the pandemic, the HRP says, is to “secure the continuity of the supply chain for essential commodities and services, such as food, time-critical productive and agricultural inputs, sexual and reproductive health and non-food items.”
The Global HRP, Barsa wrote, “must remain focused on addressing the most urgent, concrete needs that are arising out of the pandemic.”
“Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump, the United States has made clear that we will ‘never tire of defending innocent life,’” Barsa wrote. “President Trump said in his address to the 74th UN General Assembly that the UN simply has ‘no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.’
“Indeed, the UN should not intimidate or coerce Member States that are committed to the right to life. 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.”
Barsa asked Guterres to remove references to “sexual and reproductive health” because “member states are deeply divided” over its use.
“Now is not the time to add unnecessary discord to the COVID-19 response,” Barsa wrote.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chris Hondros/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.