U.S. Rejects 'Reproductive Health' Terms in WHO Coronavirus Response Resolution, Says There's No 'International Right to Abortion'

The United States largely supported an international COVID-19 response resolution but took issue with the inclusion of language about sexual and reproductive health.

A draft resolution on the COVID-19 response put forth during the 73rd World Health Assembly on Tuesday called on member states to engage in a number of behaviors in the context of the pandemic. Among those actions were to maintain the uninterrupted and safe services for "mother and child health and sexual and reproductive health" and provide assistance to other countries.

The U.S. disassociated itself from the language in paragraphs 7.5 and 9.4 of the resolution, saying that they "do not accept references to 'sexual and reproductive health'" or language that may suggest "access to abortion is part of population and individual level health services."

"There is no international right to abortion, nor is there any duty on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion," the U.S. said. "As President [Donald] Trump has stated, 'Americans will never tire of defending innocent life.'"

The statement stated unequivocally that the country "believes in legal protections for the unborn" and rejected that a state should be required to provide abortion access. It also does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning or "support abortion in our global health assistance."

abortion who coronavirus resolution america
Pro-life demonstrators listen to President Donald Trump as he speaks at the 47th annual "March for Life" in Washington, D.C., on January 24. On Tuesday, the United States disassociated from paragraphs in a WHO coronavirus response resolution that referenced sexual and reproductive health. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty

Trump's campaign and supporters have championed him as being the "most pro-life" president in history. He's also spoken at the March for Life on numerous occasions, earning him praise from anti-abortion activists but ire from pro-abortion rights supporters.

Although America broke with the resolution on the subject of sexual and reproductive health, it largely supported the resolution and on Tuesday, the assembly adopted it. Along with implementing plans for their own countries to curb the outbreak, such as providing testing, treatment and care and ensuring access to safe water, it also made requests of WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The requests include asking Ghebreyesus to continue to work on a coordinated response across the United Nations system and assist countries in their fight against the new coronavirus that's claimed more than 319,000 lives worldwide. He also must initiate at the "earliest moment" an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review the "experience gained and lessons learned" from WHO's response to the outbreak. On Monday, Ghebreyesus agreed to the evaluation the Member States sought.

"We applaud the call for an impartial, independent and comprehensive review of the WHO's response, to be undertaken in consultation with Member States, and we urge that work to begin now," the U.S. said. "This will help ensure we have a complete and transparent understanding of the source of the virus, timeline of events, early discussions, and the decision making process for the WHO's response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Trump's been one of the loudest critics of the WHO's handling of the outbreak and hours earlier shared a four-page letter he sent to the director-general. He charged WHO of ignoring reports the new coronavirus spread in the Chinese city of Wuhan earlier than December, as China claimed, and failing to investigate credible claims. He also criticized Ghebreyesus for praising China's "strict travel restrictions" while being against America's border closures.

If the WHO does not "commit to major substantive improvements" within the next 30 days, Trump said he would permanently freeze U.S. funding to WHO and "reconsider our membership."