(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and 50 other House Republicans sent a letter to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein Thursday requesting that he clarify that the U.N. is not “calling for changes to laws protecting the human rights of unborn children” in a statement the commissioner made calling for wider access to “reproductive health services” in response to the Zika virus affecting several Latin American countries.
The congressmen wrote that they were “troubled to read the United Nations Commission on Human Rights February 5, 2016 press release on the recent spread of the Zika virus and its implications for abortion practices.”
The statement from Zeid’s office emphasized that in light of the Zika outbreak “laws and policies that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services in contravention of international standards, must be repealed…”
The members wrote that they are “concerned” by what the commissioner’s statement “may suggest.”
“We believe the Zika virus should be a time for thoughtful deliberation as local and national governments determine the best policies to curb the spread of this disease,” they wrote. “It should not be an occasion to exploit a genuine public health crisis to advance a political agenda to overturn laws of many nations protective of life at all stages of development.”
The letter pointed out that abortion advocates have already used the fears surrounding the Zika virus to push a pro-abortion agenda.
“The Center for Reproductive Rights’ Latin America specialist recently stated in regards to El Salvador, which has constitutional protection of unborn children, ‘this [Zika outbreak] is a huge opportunity for the anti-abortion law to be reformed,’” according to the letter.
“In this context, we are concerned that the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights appears to be taking a similarly opportunistic and pro-abortion approach to the Zika outbreak. Any such action by the High Commission is gravely inappropriate,” the members wrote.
“We urge you to immediately clarify your statements to make clear that you and the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights are not calling for changes to laws protecting the human rights of unborn children, and particularly unborn children with disabilities in countries affected by the Zika virus,” they added.
The letter added that “any insinuation that there is an undebatable and global consensus that abortion is a valid reproductive health procedure is patently untrue and insensitive, not only to many States, but also to the countless men and women across the world who believe that life begins at conception, and hold sincere religious and personal pro-life convictions.”
The letter cited Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey, which found that 56 percent of over 40,000 respondents in 40 countries believe that abortion is unacceptable.
Many have weighed in on the controversy surrounding the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is suspected to be linked to a birth defect called microcephaly.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Nicaragua ban all abortions, while Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela allow abortion only to save a woman’s life.
These predominantly Catholic countries now face an ethical dilemma as health authorities are advising women to avoid becoming pregnant due to the Zika virus crisis.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly condemns abortion as well as the use of contraception, apart from natural family planning.
U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told CNSNews.com last week that “reproductive rights” of women in countries affected by the Zika virus must be advanced “not only because of Zika, but also because it’s the right thing to do.”
However, Brazil’s Catholic bishops have said that despite the grave situation, there was no need for “panic” and no justification for advocating abortion as a remedy.
They called for the “shameful” state of the country’s public health system to be addressed.
Pope Francis was asked earlier this month whether the church might regard the use of abortion to prevent the spread of Zika as “the lesser of two evils.”
“Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another,” the pope replied. “On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.”
The pope concluded that he “would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease.”