Not content to merely police women’s bodies in the United States, the Trump administration has gone global with their war on reproductive rights. According to The Guardian, which has seen the document, U.S. officials wrote a letter to United Nations member states asking that they join an allegedly “growing coalition” of countries determined to end abortion.

“As a key priority in global health promotion,” the letter states, “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,” It was apparently signed by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to The Guardian.

The letter suggests that previous multinational agreements on health care have been misinterpreted as pro-choice:

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.

The Guardian points out that this letter was similar to a May letter delivered to the World Health Organization, and signed by the U.S., Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria and Iraq, which stated that any references to reproductive health “cause confusion and misunderstanding.”

This is the latest step in the Trump administration’s attempts to restrict reproductive rights. While still campaigning for president in October of 2016, Trump told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News that he would “automatically” nominate anti-abortion judges.

Three days after being inaugurated, Trump announced he was reinstating, through executive order, a policy known as the global gag rule, which bars foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving American funding if they perform abortions. In March 2019, as The New York Times reported, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced an expansion of the rule, barring funding to foreign NGOs that lobby for abortion.

They did the same for U.S. organizations that provide referrals for abortions, denying funding to organizations who previously received it under a family planning program called Title X. Planned Parenthood, NPR reported, left the program in August, “rather than comply with new Trump administration rules regarding abortion counseling.” This only scratches the surface of the state-level abortion restrictions the Trump administration also supported.

The Trump administration didn’t respond to The Guardian’s request for comment. Advocates for reproductive justice are concerned.

“This letter just shows how they are trying to erode international consensus and roll back the clock for women and girls,” Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition told The Guardian, adding, “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.”

The statement is scheduled to be presented at a meeting on health care coverage during Monday’s session of the U.N. General Assembly.


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