By Wesley J. Smith
It’s often said that no right is absolute. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), that maxim doesn’t apply to abortion. Its newly published “Abortion Care Guideline” is the most radically pro-abortion official document ever published (pdf). Indeed, in recommending abortion public policies for all the world’s nations to adopt, the WHO not only assumes that abortion is a fundamental human right but also demands that access to terminations be guaranteed universally without any restrictions whatsoever.
Reflecting the WHO’s culturally imperialistic intent, the guideline oozes with the lexicon of Western political progressivism. It begins by stating: “In this guideline … we also recognize that cisgender women, transgender men, nonbinary, gender-fluid and intersex individuals with a female reproductive system and capable of becoming pregnant may require abortion care.” To say the least, most people in the world don’t talk like that. Moreover, embracing such ideology is a questionable strategy for persuading religious, tribal, and other culturally conservative societies to go quietly along with the WHO’s absolutist abortion agenda.
But then, persuasion isn’t really the point. Issuing diktats from on high is. Thus, the guideline advocates:
Abortion on Demand: The guideline states categorically that abortion should be available “on the request of the woman, girl or other pregnant person without the authorization of any other individual, body or institution.” It goes without saying that the father of the unborn child should have no say. But in the WHO’s elitist view, neither would the parents of pregnant children, whose views on the question are deemed paramount no matter how immature they may be. Indeed, the guideline specifically states, “While parental or partner involvement in abortion decision-making can support and assist women, girls or other pregnant persons, this must be based on the values and preferences of the person availing of abortion and not imposed by third-party authorization requirements.” In other words, parental involvement is fine—so long as they accede to their child’s choice of abortion.
Abortion Through the Ninth Month: Most national laws that allow abortion place gestational time limits on access, particularly once the unborn baby is able to live outside the womb. The WHO disdains such protections, claiming that the right to abortion should apply at any time during a pregnancy: “Recommend against laws and other regulations that prohibit abortion based on gestational age limits.”
Why? The WHO claims that gestational limitations are associated with poor health outcomes. But this seems the real reason: The guideline notes that “gestational age limits delayed access to abortion.” Well, that is the point because these limits may save the life of a viable child. At the very least, one would expect the guideline to grapple with that crucial moral question of late-term abortion, but they don’t write a word. Nor is there any requirement for providing proper medical care for a baby who survives an attempted abortion.
No Ultrasounds or Other Pre-Conditions to Abortion: The lives of countless babies have been saved by the legal requirement in some jurisdictions that a woman planning an abortion be shown an ultrasound image of her gestating fetus. The idea here is to demonstrate to the mother that her baby is not merely a bunch of cells akin to a tumor. It’s an effective pro-life approach. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The WHO wants none of that! “For both medical and surgical abortion: Recommend against the use of ultrasound scanning as a prerequisite for providing abortion services.” Avoiding the visceral purpose of laws requiring such tests, the WHO merely sniffs, “Legal regulation that limits the availability of abortion by gestational age may require or result in ultrasounds being used to verify gestational age prior to abortion, even though this is not necessary from a clinical perspective.” Perhaps not, but it sure is from the moral view. Countless children are alive and thriving today—who would otherwise be dead—because their mothers saw their picture before they were born.
Abortion Provided Free by Taxpayers: Not only does the WHO want abortion without limitations, but it wants all of society to pay for the procedure: “Respect, protection and fulfilment of the right to health requires States to guarantee, at a minimum, universal and equitable access to affordable, acceptable and quality SRH [sexual and reproductive health] services, goods and facilities, in particular for women and disadvantaged and marginalized groups. Thus, in order to provide an enabling environment for abortion care, ability to pay should not have any bearing on women’s ability to access legal abortion services.”
Allow Non-Doctors to Perform Abortions: Because there can never be enough abortions, the guideline advocates allowing non-doctors to terminate pregnancies, stating: “Such restrictions [requiring that doctors perform abortions] are arbitrary and not evidence based. … Thus, States must ensure an adequate number of medical and professional personnel and skilled providers in the health system as well as adequate stocks of essential medicines” to guarantee that every desired abortion is carried out.
Restrict Medical Conscience Rights: The guideline also demands that medical professionals be prevented from saying no if it impedes the “human right” of open access: “Conscientious objection continues to operate as a barrier to access to quality abortion care. It is critical that States ensure compliance with regulations and design/organize health systems to ensure access to and continuity of quality abortion care. If it proves impossible to regulate conscientious objection in a way that respects, protects and fulfils abortion seekers’ rights, conscientious objection in abortion provision may become indefensible.”
Remarkably, for a document that claims to be science-based, the guideline ignores the crucial scientific fact that—as embryology informs us—human life begins when the embryo comes into existence after fertilization is complete. As one textbook put it (my emphasis), “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization … is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.” (Ronan O ’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, “Human Embryology & Teratology,” 3rd ed.)
Thus, an unborn child is a nascent human being. That’s basic biology. And for billions of people on the planet, this scientific fact raises substantial ethical questions they want reflected in their society’s abortion public policies. Yet, the guideline hubristically ignores these fundamental moral beliefs without acknowledging the views of those who either think abortion is wrong altogether, or that it should be legally constrained in some manner, say, after the first three months of gestation.
In other words, the WHO seeks to impose an alien and radical pro-abortion morality on the people it presumes to serve as the world’s supposedly premier public health organization. To these elitists, it’s not about keeping abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” but guaranteeing that every unwanted pregnancy ends in the death of the baby.
In a sense, that is a public service. The WHO’s “Abortion Care Guideline” illustrates why the out-of-touch technocratic class should never be allowed the unfettered power to craft public policy. Instead of following the guideline’s recommendations, the world should consider the source and stuff this awful report directly into the dumpster.
Editor’s note. This appeared at the Epoch Times and is reposted with permission.