US, Saudi Arabia and Uganda join forces to declare women have no intrinsic right to abortion

Ten of world’s 20 worst countries for women sign declaration organised by Trump administration

Tom Embury-Dennis
Saturday 24 October 2020 09:50 BST
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The Trump administration has joined 32 illiberal or authoritarian countries in declaring that women have no intrinsic right to abortion.

The Geneva Consensus Declaration, which received no support from America’s liberal allies, calls on states to protect the health and “inalienable rights” of women, but appears largely aimed at curbing global abortion rights and promoting heterosexual family units.

It was co-sponsored by Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Uganda and the US, and was also signed by a host of autocratic countries including Saudi Arabia, Belarus and the United Arab Emirates.

“In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning,” states the declaration, which was signed during a virtual gathering of countries in Washington DC on Thursday.

It adds: “There is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of states to finance or facilitate abortion.”

Ten of the 20 worst countries in the world to be a woman - according to the Women, Peace and Security Index by Georgetown University - joined the declaration, while none of the top 20, with the exception of the US, were signatories to it.

“For the last four years, women have faced continuous attacks on their reproductive freedom, with the withdrawal of funding and the emboldening of corrosive anti-choice groups,” Sarah Shaw, head of advocacy for Marie Stopes International, which provides safe abortion to women in dozens of countries, said of the Trump administration’s policies.

“It is extremely alarming and disappointing to see this complete disregard for human rights which undermines international consensus around reproductive health and rights.

“Ultimately, this will impact the most vulnerable and marginalised women and girls the most, denying them access to life saving family planning and comprehensive abortion care.”

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The declaration is part of a Trump administration attempt, led by the evangelical Christian secretary of state Mike Pompeo, to establish a more socially conservative foreign policy agenda.

Prior to taking office in 2016, Donald Trump appeared to flip-flop on the issue of abortion, but since becoming president he has championed conservative values and reached out to pro-life groups for support while in the White House.

Critics say his attempts to espouse Christian values are a cynical attempt at shoring up votes among the evangelical community, many of whom voted for him in 2016 and could again play a role in deciding who wins the 2020 race for the Oval Office.

Appointed by the president in 2018, Mr Pompeo has been seeking to push a pro-life US foreign policy during his time in office.

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Late last month he attempted to use a US-sponsored UN event as a platform to redefine international human rights and prioritise “religious freedom” over LGBT equality. 

And the Geneva Consensus Declaration appeared another attempt to marginalise LGBT rights. The text conspicuously omits any mention of gay rights or LGBT families, and instead promotes the “harmonious partnership” between men and women and asserts that women “play a critical role in the family”.

Josh Bradlow, policy manager at Stonewall, told The Independent: "The swing towards extreme politics and anti-diversity rhetoric that’s been gaining momentum worldwide has strengthened hostility against marginalised groups, including LGBT people and women. 

“We must be vigilant to prevent rights being rolled back across the globe. Now, more than ever we need to remember the power that comes when we stand together, and fight for equality of people of all backgrounds.”

The Geneva Consensus has no basis in international law and will not mean abortion or same-sex marriage is restricted in the US.  

List of Geneva Consensus Declaration signatories

Kingdom of Bahrain

Republic of Belarus

Republic of Benin

Federative Republic of Brazil (co-sponsor)

Burkina Faso

Republic of Cameroon

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Republic of the Congo

Republic of Djibouti

Arab Republic of Egypt (co-sponsor)

Kingdom of Eswatini

Republic of The Gambia

Republic of Haiti

Hungary (co-sponsor)

Republic of Indonesia (co-sponsor)

Republic of Iraq

Republic of Kenya

State of Kuwait

State of Libya

Republic of Nauru

Republic of Niger

Sultanate of Oman

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Republic of Poland

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Republic of Senegal

Republic of South Sudan

Republic of Sudan

Republic of Uganda (co-sponsor)

United Arab Emirates

United States of America (co-sponsor)

Republic of Zambia

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