The United States hosted the signing ceremony of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Thursday. The document rejects the claim that abortion is an international human right.
“Today we put down a clear marker; no longer can UN agencies reinterpret and misinterpret agreed-upon language without accountability,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar during the ceremony Oct. 22..
“Without apology we affirm that governments have the soverign right to make their own laws to protect innocent life and write their regulations on abortion” Azar said.
“In signing the declaration today, the United States is honored to stand alongside Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda, the cross-regional cosponsors for the declaration,” he said. A total of 32 countries have signed onto the declaration.
Azar called the signing the “high point” of his time leading the department, and noted that countries who have not yet signed the document can still do so.
“The Geneva Consensus Declaration is a historic document, stating clearly where we as nations stand on women’s health, the family, honoring life, and defending national sovereignty,” said Azar, calling it “much more than a statement of beliefs.”
“It is a critical and useful tool to defend these principles across all United Nations bodies and in every multilateral setting, using language previously agreed to by member states of those bodies,” he explained.
The declaration was written partially in response to a “disturbing trend” in the United Nations, he said.
“With increasing frequency, some rich nations and UN agencies beholden to them are wrongly asserting [that] abortion is a universal human right.”
Azar said that these policies have the effect of forcing countries to implement “progressive” abortion laws or face the loss of funding or international standing. He accused some nations of having a “myopic focus on a radical agenda that is offensive to many cultures, and derails agreement on women’s health priorities.”
The coalition of signing countries “will hold multilateral organizations accountable,” he explained, by denouncing these organizations for “promoting positions that can never gain consensus.”
“We will unequivocally declare that there is no international right to abortion. We will proudly put women’s health first at every stage of life,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the declaration a “deep and personal commitment to protect human dignity” and “the culmination of lots of hard work.”
Pompeo highlighted the Trump administration’s “unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad,” and said that “the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always” over the last four years.
“It’s historic to be here,” he said. “It’s the first time that a multilateral coalition has been built around the issue of defending life.”
The Geneva Consensus Declaration, said Pompeo, is a “commitment to work together at the UN and in other international settings to achieve tangible results,” something he is “confident” will happen. He added that he was “truly proud” of the work being done.
Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women's Health at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided background of the declaration.
The declaration, Huber explained, was intended to be signed at the culmination of the World Health Assembly’s global women’s health summit, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We decided to move forward with the declaration now, because accelerating health gains for women cannot wait,” said Huber.
“Supporting the intrinsic value of the family cannot wait. Protecting life born and unborn, and the sovereignty of nations to make their own laws on this issue cannot wait.”