By Marie Smith, Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues (PNCI)
The United Nations General Assembly (GA) began a new session in New York with a large number of heads of state, including President Donald Trump, diplomats and country delegations in attendance. In unprecedented remarks, President Trump told the GA, “Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child – born and unborn – is a sacred gift from God.”
President Trump brought to light the all-too-frequent pro-abortion activism by UN agencies, treaty monitoring bodies, UN officials and employees–whom he called “global bureaucrats”–and who he said “have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery.”
He reminded the global bureaucrats that they “have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.” This statement is grounded in the Programme of Action from the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo where countries agreed that “Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.”
In fact, an overwhelming majority of UN member states–121 countries–currently limits abortion and prohibits abortion on demand, or for social and economic reasons, and are often subjected to criticism and pressure from UN entities.
President Trump accurately and passionately informed the GA that “Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life.”
On Monday, September 23, the GA held the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage where there had been a concerted effort by pro-abortion elites to include abortion under primary health care as a component of universal health coverage. Their efforts paid off as the Political Declaration that was advanced at the meeting contained terms and language used to advance abortion including a call to “Ensure, by 2030, universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services”.
His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, spoke on behalf of the Holy See and voiced opposition to inclusion of these terms in the Political Declaration. His statement included the following:
“The right to health is in fact universally recognized as a basic human right and is understood as comprising the health of the person as a whole and of all persons during all stages of development of their life. The right to health is thus inextricably linked with the right to life and it can never be manipulated as an excuse to end or dispose of a human life in whichever point in the entire continuum of his or her existence, from conception until natural death.”
“At the same time, the Holy See considers it most unfortunate that the adopted declaration includes the deeply concerning and divisive references to ‘sexual and reproductive health-care services’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights’ as components of universal health coverage. In line with its reservations expressed at the international conferences held in Beijing and Cairo, the Holy See reiterates that it considers the phrase ‘reproductive health’ and related terms as applying to a holistic concept of health, which embraces the person in the entirety of his or her personality, mind and body. In particular, the Holy See rejects the interpretation that considers abortion or access to abortion, sex-selective abortion, abortion of fetuses diagnosed with health challenges, maternal surrogacy, and sterilization as dimensions of these terms, or of universal health coverage.”
The US delegation, led by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, voiced similar concerns in a group statement from the United States, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen over divisive language in the declaration on “ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Secretary Azar’s remarks and the group statement called for unity and not divisive terms that do not enjoy consensus or agreement in order to address the critical issues surrounding access to health care. The statement included,
“We do not support references to ambiguous terms and expressions, 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.
“Such terms do not adequately take into account the key role of the family in health and education, nor the sovereign right of nations to implement health policies according to their national context. There is no international right to an abortion and these terms should not be used to promote pro-abortion policies and measures.”
Prior to the High Level Meeting, Secretary Azar and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had sent a joint letter to a number of nations encouraging them to join the US in standing for life at the UN.
Their letter included:
“The United States appreciates our longstanding partnership in many global health areas. As a key priority in global health promotion, we respectfully request that your government join the United States 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. We remain gravely concerned that 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…”
The US continues to seek Member States willing to stand up for life as the world prepares to meet in Nairobi in November for the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
A statement supporting “SRHR” at the UHC meeting was read by the Netherlands on behalf of: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cap Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, United Kingdom and Uruguay.
This “Joint SRHR Statement” said that the countries “strongly believe that SRHR is an integral part of Universal Health Coverage and the SDGs” and included that in order for Universal Health Coverage to be “genuinely universal, it must embrace all health services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)”. The statement ended with the reassurance of the countries’ “full commitment and support to the implementation of the Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage in our respective countries and abroad.”
PNCI notes that implementation cannot happen without funding. Parliaments can expect pressure and lobbying for budgets that will finance the implementation of Universal Health Coverage in countries.