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U.S. signs international anti-abortion declaration

U.S. signs international anti-abortion declaration
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that "there is no international right to an abortion." Photo by Greg Nash/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The United States on Thursday joined Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia and Uganda as co-sponsors of an international anti-abortion declaration that was signed by some 30 United Nations members, most of which are widely seen as authoritarian, illiberal or both.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar participated in the virtual signing ceremony of the Geneva Consensus Declaration that calls on the signatories to protect women's health, preserve life, strengthen the family unit and protect every nation's national sovereignty in global politics, especially concerning their right to make laws concerning abortion.

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The declaration states the signing countries "emphasize that 'in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning'" and that "the child ... needs special safeguards and care ... before as well as after birth." It also says states have no obligation to finance or facilitate abortion.

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Pompeo called it a "historic" signing as it was the first multilateral coalition built around the issue of "defending life."

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"There is no international right to an abortion," Pompeo said in a press briefing.

Among the signatories are countries that have voiced opposition to LGBTQ and reproductive rights, with many of the 32 signatories, including Pakistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Democratic Republic of Congo, ranked among the worst countries for women by a study from Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

The coalition stands opposed to the United Nations stance on abortion as a human right, and Azar described the Geneva Consensus Declaration as a "tool" for countries to defend their principles against multilateral organizations.

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"We will denounce these organizations when they overstep their mandates by promoting positions that can never gain consensus," he said. "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."

Amnesty International called the declaration a "giant step backwards" for the United States as it joins a list of countries that put the lives and health of people at risk.

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"The United States' stance flies in the face of human rights and decades of health research," Tarah Demant, director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. "This is about people living full lives that are their own -- not the lives that the government has prescribed for them."

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The non-binding declaration is a continuation of the Trump administration's stance against international organizations prescribing abortion as a human right.

In May, the U.S. Agency for International Development accused the United Nations in a letter of using the coronavirus for "promoting abortion" when it included sexual and reproduction health services within its Global Humanitarian Response Plan to COVID-19 guidelines.

In July, Pompeo was criticized over a controversial report unveiled by the State Department on human rights for listing abortion along with affirmative action and same-sex marriage as "divisive social and political controversies" where proponents commonly "couch their claims in terms of basic rights."

On Thursday, the United States' top diplomat said the Trump administration has "defended the right to human dignity like no other administration in history."

"We have mounted an unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad," he said.

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The Global Justice Center lambasted the Trump administration Thursday, saying despite its rhetoric it has never put the health of women first.

"This administration has consistently [put] both women's bodies, here at home and abroad, last," Akila Radhakrishnan, president of Global Justice Center, said in a statement.

"Just because these regressive governments keep asserting that abortion is not a human right, doesn't make it true; the international human rights framework is clear on this issue," Radhakrishnan said. "There is a reason why none of the U.S.' traditional allies, nor countries with strong records on human rights, joined this declaration -- if flies in the face of decades of hard-fought victories for the rights for women."

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