Last week, John Barsa, the acting administrator for the US agency for international development (USAid), sent a letter to the UN secretary-general António Guterres, criticizing the UN’s decision to include abortion as an “essential service” during the pandemic.
In the letter, Barsa emphasized that USAid has to date given $650.7 million to combat the pandemic globally and an additional$45.3 million to UN agencies. Barsathen outlined what he believed the priorities of the UN should be:
“The delivery of essential health care is the first priority around the globe during this time.,” Barsa wrote. “In addition, severe food shortages could represent a second, deadly impact of the pandemic in many countries.”
“Therefore, the UN should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service.’ 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.”
“Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump, the United States has made clear that we will ‘never tire of defending innocent life.’ 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 requested that abortion be removed from the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan
With a budget of over $27 billion, USAID is one of the largest official aid agencies in the world, and accounts for more than half of all U.S. foreign assistance—the highest in the world in absolute dollar terms.
The request by USAid is consistent with a government policy implemented in 1984 by the Reagan Administration called the Mexico City Policy which blocks federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion, or expand abortion services.
Last Tuesday, President Trump threatened to cut US funding and pull out of the UN’s World Health Organization due to the organization mishandling the current pandemic.