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06/05/2020 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The United Nations shows no sign of relenting as the United States calls for it to drop funding for abortions from its COVID-19 response plan. The controversy centers around $120 million allocated to the UN Population Fund by the recently published Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP).

The GHRP was published without the input of UN member states and funds programs known to peddle abortions in countries where such activity has been made illegal on religious grounds. The UN Population fund, in particular, provides abortions to women and girls as part of what it terms “essential reproductive healthcare services.”

USAID’s Acting Administrator, John Barsa, called the GHRP “an affront to the autonomy of each society to determine its own national policies on health care” and suggested that the plan exploits the COVID-19 pandemic to force abortion services on countries and individuals with objections to such a practice.

The GHRP lays out a multifaceted response to the global pandemic. In all, the plan allocates $6.71 billion to a multitude of programs addressing issues from sanitation to nutrition to security. Abortion is not the main thrust of the GHRP—funding allocated to the UN Population Fund makes up not quite 1.8% of the total costs proposed by the plan. Still, to make the provision of abortion services an integral part of the world’s response to COVID-19 is an affront to the right of sovereign nations to take a pro-life stance, according to U.S. officials.

Many countries, both Muslim and Christian, are simultaneously in need of international aid to respond to COVID-19 and take a strong moral stance against abortion. The GHRP lumps funding for abortion in with the general COVID-19 response, putting the problems of food insecurity and malnutrition on the same level as access to abortions.

Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen are all among the countries identified by the GHRP as major recipients of aid in the plan. Each of those countries also bans or restricts abortions on religious grounds. Their need for international assistance makes them particularly vulnerable to the pressure of aid given with the strings of cultural imperialism attached.

The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls responded to Barsa’s concerns, saying that ensuring access to abortions is essential “and must remain a key component of the UN’s priorities in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The UN Population Fund was founded in 1969 with the explicit purpose of limiting population growth in developing nations. As repugnant as the idea of a largely western-controlled international organization working to reduce the population of the developing world sounds to the modern ear, the fear of a devastating ‘population explosion’ was enough to make the idea sound reasonable at the time.

The fund has rebranded itself several times since its founding—the current iteration uses the language of rights and freedoms—but the gist remains the same and it continues to finance and support abortion in ways that violate both personal dignity and national sovereignty. A report issued by ADF International documents some of these violations.

The U.S. has previously withheld money from the UN Population Fund due to evidence that it supports forced abortions in China. China is a well-known religious freedom violator, forcing allegiance to the state on its citizens over their religious convictions and individual rights.

The GHRP is an important part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and it should not be marred by an overbearing attempt to push abortion on unwilling recipients. The world should not be forced to ignore their conscience on the matter of abortion in order to allow this COVID-19 response plan to go forward.