Commentary

WHO Attacks Doctors' Conscientious Objection to Abortion

By Bill Donohue | March 28, 2022 | 12:17pm EDT
Pictured is a sign advertising the World Health Organization. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
Pictured is a sign advertising the World Health Organization. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

The highly politicized response by the World Health Organization (WHO) to COVID-19 did much to discredit itself, but its latest move is even worse. It recently issued the "Abortion Care Guideline," a document that attacks religious liberty and flouts international law. 

Below is Catholic League President Bill Donohue's letter to WHO Acting Director for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research Craig Lissner.

Dear Mr. Lissner:

The recently released document, "Abortion Care Guideline," is contemptible. The disrespect shown for medical personnel who invoke conscientious objection status to performing an abortion is outrageous. This would certainly include Catholic doctors and hospitals. 

The document says that "conscientious objection continues to operate as a barrier to access to quality abortion care." It instructs governments around the world to ensure that this does not happen, and then concludes that this basic right may be violated. "If it proves impossible to regulate conscientious objection in a way that respects, protects, and fulfills abortion seekers' rights, conscientious objection in abortion provision may become indefensible."

What is really indefensible is the attack on conscientious objections to killing the innocent. It is not only morally offensive, but it also flouts international law. 

Freedom of conscience, [Soviet dissident Aleksander] Solzhenitsyn said, is the first freedom, the one that totalitarian governments have tried to violate. He explained that it was intrinsically tied to freedom of religion, thus necessitating greater protection in law. 

Freedom of conscience and religion are assured by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. 

The United Nations Charter also guarantees the right to self-determination. Indeed, the General Assembly provides that every nation "has the duty to refrain from any forcible action which deprives peoples referred to in the elaboration of the principle of equal rights and self-determination...."

The plain language of these renowned declarations ensures the freedom to conscientiously object to mandates that would violate them. 

WHO may not have any international enforcement power, but the fact that it would promote a frontal assault on such a fundamental right as freedom of conscience shows how thoroughly irresponsible it has become. Not only does it devalue innocent human life, it wants to punish those who reject its morally debased ethics. 

Catholic medical personnel who are victimized by WHO's agenda, or who resist sanctions against them, may need legal assistance. We will be happy to see they get it. 

Sincerely,

William A. Donohue, Ph.D.

Bill Donohue is president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of nine books and many articles.

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