The United States joined 31 other countries Thursday in signing a document emphasizing the equal rights of men and women and declaring there is “no international right to abortion.”
The Geneva Consensus Declaration was co-sponsored by the U.S., Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Hungary and Uganda and represents 1.6 billion people and every region of the world, supporters of the document said. It was signed during a joint virtual ceremony.
“In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning,” the document says.
The declaration involves three primary issues: promotion of equal rights for women, opposition to abortion for family planning, and the recognition of the need for universal health coverage.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a statement. “He’s done it like no other President in history. We’ve also mounted an unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad.”
The Geneva Consensus Declaration, Pompeo said, “protects women’s health, defends the unborn, and reiterates the vital importance of the family as the foundation of society.”
The document declares:
- Any changes “related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.” Further, “the child… needs special safeguards and care … before as well as after birth” and “there is no international right to abortion.”
- Women and girls “must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources, and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision-making at all levels.”
- Every human being “has the inherent right to life.”
- The family is “the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” Additionally, women “play a critical role in the family.”
- Universal health coverage “is fundamental.” It urges countries to “advance universal health coverage” but recognizes the “primary role and responsibility of governments at all levels to determine their own path towards achieving universal health coverage, in accordance with national contexts and priorities.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the declaration is “much more than a statement of beliefs.”
“It is a critical and useful tool to defend these principles across all United Nations bodies and at every multilateral setting, using language previously agreed to by member states of those bodies,” Azar said in a statement.
In comments at the virtual signing ceremony, Azar said the document and others like it bring “badly needed attention to a disturbing trend.”
“With increasing frequency, some rich nations and U.N. agencies beholden to them are wrongly asserting abortion as a universal human right,” Azar said. “These efforts pressure countries to institute progressive abortion laws or risk losing global funding or standing in international fora. Tragically, women around the world unnecessarily suffer health challenges – all too often deadly health challenges – while too many wealthy nations and international institutions put a myopic focus on a radical agenda that is offensive to many cultures and derails agreement of women’s health priorities.
“Today we put down a clear marker,” Azar said. “No longer can U.N. agencies reinterpret and misinterpret agreed-upon language without accountability.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.