Leaked Letter Shows the Trump Administration Rallying U.N. Member States Against Abortion Rights

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The Trump administration’s war on reproductive rights continues: According to the Guardian, a leaked letter from the United States sent to United Nation member states calls for the formation of an anti-abortion coalition. Reportedly signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the text describes United Nation policies that support sexual and reproductive health as “harmful.” Most damning of all, the letter proposes that previous U.N. health guidelines have been misconstrued to support abortion rights.

Here’s an excerpt of the letter, from the Guardian:

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 unity 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.

Evidence of this is found in references throughout many multilateral global health policy documents to interpret ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ to diminish the role of parents in the most sensitive and personal family-oriented issues. The latter has been asserted to mean promotion of abortion, including pressuring countries to abandon religious principles and cultural norms enshrined in law that protect unborn life.

These approaches undermine our shared commitment to sustainable development and to achieving health for all, leaving no one behind.

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Ah, yes, of course, how dare U.N. health policies support “comprehensive sexuality education,” “sexual and reproductive health,” and “sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Criminal.

The letter will be presented during the meeting on universal health coverage at the U.N. general assembly on Monday. A similar letter was presented to the World Health Assembly in May and was signed by the United States, Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria, and Iraq.

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The record is skipping: In April of this year, the United States threatened to veto a U.N. resolution on rape as a weapon of war based solely on language that referred to reproductive and sexual health. It’s a dangerous pattern to erode not only abortion rights but the rights of women and girls globally. As Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition told the Guardian, “It’s not just abortion that they care about, they care about women’s ability to exercise autonomy over their bodies and about denying them critical access to the services they need.”

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