There is no “international right to an abortion” the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Monday, during an address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Regarding a declaration on universal health care, Alex Azar spoke in New York on behalf of the United States and 18 other nations asserting that abortion is not an international right. He said the U.S. and these other nations “wish to state clearly that we disassociate from paragraph 68 of the Declaration.”
“We do not accept the terms ‘sexual and reproductive health’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights’ in this Declaration and note that only documents approved by the General Assembly may inform their understanding and implementation,” the secretary said, adding:
These terms must always include language, which some countries blocked, to remind U.N. agencies that each nation has the sovereign right to implement related programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies, and that these terms in no way imply that there is an international right to abortion.
“Healthcare exists to improve health and preserve human life—the universal goal we all share,” Azar said.
Ahead of the #UNGA High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, I joined colleagues in delivering a joint statement asking Member States to join us in concentrating on topics that unite rather than divide on the issues surrounding access to healthcare. https://t.co/jUIoXXtu5K pic.twitter.com/3KLXHa1cEh
— Secretary Alex Azar (@SecAzar) September 23, 2019
Azar spoke during the U.N. summit, that centered primarily on climate change and health care, and was joined in making the statement by representatives from several of the nations that signed it, including Brazil, Poland, and Iraq.
“Because we recognize that each nation has its own needs but shares the common goal of health,” he continued, “the United States deplores that some countries politicized the negotiation over this declaration by including language that has been used to promote abortion as healthcare and promote sex education that diminishes the protective role of the family in improving health.”
The secretaries’ letter followed a joint statement at the 2019 World Health Assembly by the U.S., Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, in which the countries condemned the use of the phrase “sexual and reproductive health and rights” to force a pro-abortion agenda.
According to NPR, Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the pro-abortion rights International Women’s Health Coalition, said, “The United States is isolated. Their position is extreme.”
“They read their statement in conjunction with countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain — which are hardly champions of women’s rights,” she added. “And if they’re the countries that the U.S. is aligning themselves with, then I think we’re right to dismiss that they have any moral stake in this battle.”
Similarly, Caitlin Horrigan, director of advocacy at Planned Parenthood Global, said in a statement, “It should come as no surprise the Trump-Pence administration is lobbying other countries to join them in working to undermine sexual and reproductive rights on a global scale at the United Nations.”
“From day one, the Trump-Pence administration has tried to take away access to birth control and safe, legal abortion,” she complained.
However, Susan Yoshihara, research director at the center for Family and Human Rights, told NPR, “We’re very pleased that the United States and these 18 countries are refocusing universal health coverage on the real needs of women and children.”
Bradley Mattes, president of Life Issues Institute and the International Right to Life Federation, commended Azar and Pompeo for their “unprecedented letter” inviting other world leaders to stand with the U.S. in defending life.
“This unprecedented letter from two high-ranking United States Cabinet members is welcome news to the international pro-life community,” Mattes said, adding:
Abortion advocates are trying to do an end run around official United Nations agreements by insisting on using ambiguous terms like “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education” – code phrases for imposing abortion on demand on countries where unborn babies are protected by law. The Trump administration is reaching out to governments worldwide, asking for their support at the U.N. to stand up to pro-abortion government entities including the European Union and keep pro-abortion language out of documents. We thank Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Azar, and especially President Trump for their extraordinary leadership and commitment to promoting a culture of life around the globe.
In their letter, Pompeo and Azar asked other governments to join with the U.S. “in ensuring that every sovereign state has the ability to determine the best way to protect the unborn and defend the family as the foundational unit of society vital to children thriving and leading healthy lives.”
The secretaries said they were “gravely concerned” about the “aggressive efforts to reinterpret international instruments to create a new international right to abortion and to promote international policies that weaken the family have advanced through some United Nations fora.”
“These approaches undermine our shared commitment to sustainable development and to achieving health for all, leaving no one behind,” the leaders wrote.
In April, the U.N. removed the euphemisms and ambiguous statements of the abortion industry from a resolution concerning rape in war zones after the Trump administration threatened a veto.
Trump administration officials threatened to veto the resolution, an initiative of the German government, that sought to address the problem of rape in war zones, unless, the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” — an ambiguous term that refers to abortion — was removed from the document’s language.
As Foreign Policy reported, an internal State Department cable, sent by Pompeo’s office to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin and U.S. Mission to the U.N., instructed U.S. diplomats to inform the German government of the U.S.’s intention to veto the resolution if the references to abortion were not removed.
The Trump administration has made clear its commitment to ensure American taxpayers are not funding or promoting abortion overseas.
In March, Pompeo announced the State Department would be expanding the Mexico City policy to include the blocking of subcontractors from using American taxpayer dollars to perform or promote abortions abroad.