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Saudi Arabia, Belarus Among Countries Joining US-Led Coalition Claiming Women Have 'No International Right to Abortion'

"This administration doesn't seem content to stop until it has fully trampled on the rights, autonomy, and dignity of women and girls everywhere."

A reproductive rights supporter holds clothes hangers during a demonstration in front of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal on October 22, 2020 in Warsaw, Poland. The court prepared to issue a decision regarding the constitutionality of access to abortion, as the U.S. joined 32 other countries, including Poland, in declaring there is no "international right" to abortion care. (Photo: Aleksander Kalka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Further distancing itself from longtime U.S. allies regarding reproductive rights, the Trump administration on Thursday joined 32 countries in signing a declaration claiming that pregnant people have "no international right to abortion."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the virtual signing ceremony for the so-called "Geneva Consensus Declaration" after the administration formed an international coalition comprised of countries where abortion care is banned or severely restricted, to counter the United Nations' support for reproductive rights.

"It carries no legitimacy within the U.N. system―but the sentiments it represents are dangerous nonetheless. In contrast to what this declaration states, there is broad international consensus on the critical need for access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion."
—Jenny Vanyur, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

The Trump administration has opposed the inclusion of language affirming that people around the world have inalienable "sexual and reproductive rights" in documents including the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The declaration introduced Thursday is aimed at "strengthening the family" and states that there is no "international obligation on the part of states to finance or facilitate abortion."  At the ceremony, Pompeo said the document "defends the unborn and reiterates the vital importance of the family," while Planned Parenthood derided the declaration as a "farce" whose signatories are out of touch with public opinion regarding the right to abortion care.

"It carries no legitimacy within the U.N. system―but the sentiments it represents are dangerous nonetheless," Jenny Vanyur, associate director of global advocacy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told HuffPost. "In contrast to what this declaration states, there is broad international consensus on the critical need for access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion." 

According to Pew Research, 61% of Americans believe abortion care should be legal in all or most cases. Internationally, support is even greater, with Ipsos reporting last month that 70% of 17,500 adults surveyed in 25 countries support the right to abortion care. 

Abortions have been recognized as a constitutional right in the U.S. since 1973, while the five countries that joined the U.S. as co-sponsors of the declaration—Egypt, Uganda, Indonesia, Brazil, and Hungary—impose severe restrictions on abortion access. 

Other countries joining the U.S.-led coalition include Saudi Arabia, Belarus, and Poland, which on Thursday imposed a near-total ban on abortion, while longtime U.S. allies including France and the U.K. are steadfast supporters of the U.N.'s declarations affirming the right to abortion care. 

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As a constitutional tribunal in Poland handed down its ruling amid protests and the Trump administration celebrated the signing of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, Amnesty International issued a reminder on social media that outlawing abortion care does not stop women from obtaining abortions, but rather makes the procedure far less safe. 

Other critics in the U.S. condemned the Trump administration for leading the international effort to undermine women's reproductive rights. 

The declaration was signed a month after the State Department proposed an expansion of the global gag rule, which would further strip healthcare funding from global organizations which provide abortion care or counseling, and as the Republican-led Senate moved toward confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. The judge has publicly supported a Christian fundamentalist group which espouses extreme anti-choice views and has suggested the Supreme Court will restrict abortion access.  

"This administration doesn't seem content to stop until it has fully trampled on the rights, autonomy, and dignity of women and girls everywhere," said Tarah Demant, director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Identity program at Amnesty International USA. "Every person has a right to their individual personal and bodily autonomy, despite this administration wanting to prescribe otherwise."

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