May 18 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Monday urged the United Nations to stop "promoting abortion," accusing it of using the coronavirus pandemic to advance access to the medical practice.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the U.S. Agency for International Development chastized the organization for including sexual and reproductive health services within its Global Humanitarian Response Plan to COVID-19, urging all of its references and its derivatives be removed from the document.
While the Global Humanitarian Response Plan makes no direct reference to abortion, it calls for the continued supply of essential health services, including reproductive health services, amid the pandemic. It says virus containment measures affect pregnancy and safe delivery while a lack of such care is a gender inequality issue.
The United Nations announced the plan in March and is seeking $6.7 billion from the international community for its funding.
John Barsa, the acting administrator of the USAID, wrote to Guterres in the letter that the United States gave the United Nations more than $3.5 billion last year and has allocated $650 million supplemental funding to combat the pandemic, calling for the U.N.'s plan to "remain focused on addressing the most urgent, concrete needs that are arising out of the pandemic."
"Therefore, the U.N. should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an 'essential service,'" Barsa said. "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 healthcare, malnutrition, shelter and sanitation."
Quoting President Donald Trump's address to the U.N. General Assembly last year, Barsa wrote the United Nations has "no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocence life," calling on the organization to not "intimidate or coerce" member states that have not legalized the medical practice.
"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 healthcare," Barsa said. "The United States stands with nations that have pledged to protect the unborn."
He said sexual and reproductive health services' inclusion as an essential service in the plan will provoke controversy at a time when the organization should be avoiding doing just that.
"The Global HRP, and the activities of U.N. agencies and bodies moving forward, should use clear language and take clear action to address the real needs of vulnerable people around the world without promoting abortion," Barsa said. "Now is not the time to add unnecessary discord to the COVID-19 response."
The letter was sent on the same day the United States criticized the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency, over its response to the pandemic, stating its "failure cost many lives."
The United States has frequently leveled criticism at the WHO in the past weeks with Trump having pulled U.S. funding to the organization last month, accusing it of "mishandling" the pandemic and aiding China in an alleged cover-up.
The WHO has also called for women's choices and rights to sexual and reproductive healthcare be protected during the coronavirus crisis.
In the United States, several lawsuits have been brought against states that have included abortion as an essential medical service that may continue amid lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus.