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Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

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Trump admin doubles down at UN: ‘There is no international right to abortion’

Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

September 27, 2019 (C-Fam) — The United States led a coalition of twenty-one countries to promote pro-life and pro-family international policies and oppose abortion at the United Nations on Monday.

The countries criticized the use of "ambiguous terms, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, in U.N. documents, because they can undermine the critical role of the family and promote practices, like abortion, in circumstances that do not enjoy international consensus and which can be misinterpreted by U.N. agencies."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar III delivered the statement of the coalition during a specially held press conference ahead of a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on universal health coverage.

Their statement emphasized, "There is no international right to an abortion and these terms should not be used to promote pro-abortion policies and measures."

The countries who joined the U.S. also criticized ongoing international efforts to promote explicit and inappropriate sex education materials, such as the World Health Organization's guidelines for Europe, which promote telling children under the age of four about "early childhood masturbation."

"We only support sex education that appreciates the protective role of the family in this education and does not condone harmful sexual risks for young people," the countries underlined.

They concluded asking the international community to concentrate "on topics that unite rather than divide on the critical issues surrounding access to health care."

Areas of consensus that were highlighted in the statement included "equal access to health care, which includes, but is not limited to reproductive concerns, maternal health, voluntary and informed family planning, HIV, elimination of violence against women and girls, and empowerment to reach the highest standard of health."

The Trump administration went on offense to promote the pro-life cause this summer, asking countries to join U.S. pro-life efforts at the UN ahead of the meeting, as the Friday Fax reported.

The Trump administration was unable to remove references to ambiguous terms from the final declaration on universal health coverage adopted on Monday. The statement of the 19 countries insisted that the declaration must be read in light of past UN agreements that exclude an international right to abortion.

During the official adoption of the agreement on universal health-care, later in the day, Azar lamented how some delegations were unwilling to more explicitly reaffirm those past UN agreements in the declaration. The Friday Fax reported that it was the European Union who blocked those references in August.

Surprisingly, both Poland and Hungary, who are members of the European Union, joined the U.S. press statement. It remains to be seen if in coming months they will prevent the European Union from blocking U.S. pro-life efforts in UN negotiations.

In addition to the U.S., Hungary and Poland, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, also joined the statement.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin leading the Holy See delegation at the universal health coverage summit underscored similar pro-life concerns with the wording of the declaration in his official statement. He said the right to health belonged to "all persons during all stages of development of their life, from conception until natural death."

In contrast, 54 countries, mostly from Europe and Latin America delivered a joint statement which said investing in "sexual and reproductive health and rights" is integral to universal health coverage and a "cost-effective and cost-saving" measure to "decrease the burden on health systems."

Published with permission from C-Fam.

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