Move is part of a campaign by Trump administration to reorient US foreign policy in a more socially conservative direction
Julian Borger in Washington – The Guardian
The campaign led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls on states to promote women’s rights and health – but without access to abortion. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images
The US has today signed an anti-abortion declaration with a group of about 30 largely illiberal or authoritarian governments, after the failure of an effort to expand the conservative coalition.
The “Geneva Consensus Declaration” calls on states to promote women’s rights and health – but without access to abortion – and is part of a campaign by Trump administration, led by secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to reorient US foreign policy in a more socially conservative direction, even at the expense of alienating traditional western allies.
The “core supporters” of the declaration are Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia and Uganda, and the 27 other signatories include Belarus (where security forces are currently trying to suppress a women-led protest movement), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya.
Most of the signatories are among the 20 worst countries to be a woman according to the Women, Peace and Security Index established by Georgetown University.
None of the top twenty countries on the Georgetown index – with the exception of the US (ranked 19th) – has signed the declaration.
The only other European signatory (apart from Belarus and Hungary) is Poland, where the constitutional court approved a near total ban on abortion on Thursday.
The list of Geneva Consensus supporters has grown little over the past year, despite a campaign by the Trump administration to find new recruits.
“In 2019, around 25 countries signed one or more joint statements regarding these issues of mutual concern,” a US memorandum circulated among supportive governments said earlier this year. “We would like many more countries to join this Declaration in 2020 so that our mutual priorities in the multilateral space can succeed.”
Gillian Kane, senior policy adviser for Ipas, an international organisation advocating safe access to abortion, said: “The United States has failed at consensus and coalition building. There are 193 UN member states and they’ve got 31. This is a terrible showing. None of our like-minded partners are there, and none of the people on the list could care less about women. It’s a failure of diplomacy.”
A virtual signature ceremony was co-hosted by Pompeo and US health and human services secretary, Alex Azar. They portrayed the declaration as a historic moment in a movement to stop abortion being supported as part of reproductive health care, and credited Donald Trump.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always,” Pompeo said. “He has done it like no other president in history. We have mounted an unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad.”
In the declaration, the signatories: “Reaffirm that there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of states to finance or facilitate abortion”.
The declaration uses “pro-family” language, supporting the “role of the family as foundational to society and as a source of health, support, and care” – which has been associated in the past with opposition to gay marriage and LGBT rights.
The document signed on Thursday also emphasises the primacy of national sovereignty in determining policy and rights, a theme pursued in another project heavily promoted by Pompeo at the state department, the commission on unalienable rights, which argues that the US view on human rights should be rooted in its own constitutional history.
As with the unalienable rights commission, career officials at the state department were largely excluded from the development of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, which has been carried out by political appointees.