The United States joined Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia and Uganda on Thursday to co-sponsor a nonbinding international declaration opposing abortion, in a rebuke of the UN Human Rights Council, which has enshrined abortion access as a universal right.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar participated in the virtual signing ceremony. The Geneva Consensus Declaration aims to promote women’s health, “defends the unborn and reiterates the vital importance of the family,” Pompeo said at the ceremony.
Access to abortion is widely restricted in the other countries to co-sponsor the declaration. “There is no international right to abortion,” Pompeo said.
Though the document does not directly address same-sex marriage, the only co-sponsors to have legalised it are Brazil and the United States, while the text’s language affirming the family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” has clear meaning for countries that restrict LGBT rights. Among the co-sponsors, the Egyptian government targets LGBT people in a “systemic fashion,” according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, and in Uganda, gay sex is punishable by death.
The ceremony stood in contrast to Wednesday’s news that Pope Francis had expressed support for laws to protect same-sex unions.
Critics said Thursday’s declaration, less than two weeks ahead of the presidential election, marked the latest move by the Trump administration to build alliances with leaders accused of human rights abuses while working to promote abortion restrictions worldwide.
The Geneva Consensus formalises a coalition united in opposition to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which forms the basis for the characterisation of abortion and same-sex marriage as human rights under international law – a position that key US allies, such as Britain and France, support.
Azar said Thursday that the coalition is intended to “hold multilateral organisations accountable.”
Along with the six co-sponsors, 26 countries have additionally joined in as signatories.