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"The COVID-19 crisis has been a sadly eye-opening experience that will cause Americans to rethink our support of specific practices and institutions including the WHO," Concerned Women for America President Penny Young Nance told Fox News on Saturday.
"America taxpayer dollars must only support institutions with our best interests at heart, including the most innocent and vulnerable among us. There will be a reckoning after this is over."
The controversy followed a similar one in states such as Texas, which restricted all elective procedures -- including abortion -- in order to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for the pandemic response. The WHO has joined pro-choice organizations such as Planned Parenthood in arguing that abortion was an essential service.
Early in March, the organization released guidance that admonished abortion restrictions on the basis of a mother's COVID-19 status. "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," the group said. More recently, the supranational organization told the Daily Caller that abortion was "essential," as one of its medical officers also seemed to suggest during a webinar at the end of March.
According to the Daily Caller, the organization listed "safe abortion" as sexual and reproductive health care that it considers "integral to universal health coverage and achieving the right to health." The WHO did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.
Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, has similarly defended abortion access while pointing to groups like the American Medical Association (AMA), which has criticized public officials' attempts to restrict the procedure.
But pro-life groups like the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, whose president leads the Trump campaign's pro-life outreach arm, maintain that abortion is a life-ending procedure and far from essential. SBA List Vice President of Communications Mallory Quigley called the WHO's support for abortion "disturbing."
"The taking of an innocent life and the wounding of women through abortion is never essential," Quigley said in a statement to Fox News.
"Women need a lot of things to prosper -- education, equal treatment under the law, economic equality -- but abortion is not the thing that empowers women," Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins told Fox News.
"Pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion, and using American tax dollars to prop up an organization committed to abortion is a misuse of scarce resources. The Trump Administration should restrict funds to organizations funding and supporting abortion to better invest in real solutions to world problems."
Live Action's Lila Rose similarly tweeted: "Why does America give hundreds of millions of dollars to @WHO? They are radically pro-abortion." She also said it was "disgusting" for the WHO to call abortion essential. "As if the death toll isn’t high enough," she tweeted.
The State Department did not immediately provide comment. But the WHO's recent moves came as the Trump administration embraced an aggressively anti-abortion foreign policy that included the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds to organizations that support abortion.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in March 2019 that the U.S. would ramp up the State Department's efforts to block funding for abortions -- restricting funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations that give to other organizations providing abortions. “We will enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor funding schemes and end-runs around our policy,” Pompeo reportedly said. “American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions.”
Created under the Trump administration, the Commission on Unalienable Rights is also suspected of serving as a way for the State Department to continue opposing abortion around the world.
For years, the U.S. has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in voluntary and "assessed," or expected, contributions to the WHO. In February, the Trump administration proposed steep cuts to WHO funding.
But according to the conservative Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), the United Nations supports abortion, as well.
"That abortion is such a central component of the UN response to the COVID-19 emergency undermines the Trump administration’s pro-life foreign policy," said Stefano Gennarini, who serves as vice president for legal studies at C-Fam.
"Even though Republicans in Congress kept abortion out of a $1.3 billion U.S. COVID-19 aid package adopted last month, UN funding is not subject to the Trump administration’s expanded Mexico City Policy. It also undermines the Helms Amendment to U.S. foreign aid law, which prohibits the use of any U.S. foreign assistance from being used to perform abortions."
The administration specifically targeted the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2017 over its support for the Chinese government's family planning program. In its Global Humanitarian Response Plan for the coronavirus, the U.N. listed "family planning" services as one of the UNFPA's "strategic priorities."