One of the great pro-life victories internationally over the past twenty years has been the defeat of the attempt to make abortion a universally recognized right through U.N. documents. Abortion is not mentioned in a single hard-law treaty and therefore has not risen to the legal level of a “human right.”
While abortion has not made any real progress through the U.N. rights-based approach, it has made serious advances through its promotion as a basic medical practice. The great engine for this has been the World Health Organization.
When national health ministers want advice about maternal mortality or reproductive health, they don’t turn to U.N. documents but to advice from the WHO. The official WHO definition of reproductive health includes “fertility regulation” and the definition of “fertility regulation” includes, first and foremost, abortion. Health ministers generally do not need any prodding when it comes to promoting abortion, but when they need ammunition to meet pro-life criticism at home, the WHO provides it.
In this vein, the WHO recently released the second edition of its Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems. The report contains abundant problems, which are examined by Dr. Susan Yoshihara and Dr. Rebecca Oas in “Eleven Problems with the 2012 WHO Technical Guidance on Abortion.”