The international pro-life movement has taken an unprecedented step forward in defense of the right to life of the unborn. With the signing of the Geneva Consensus Declaration today, 32 governments have come together to unambiguously state: “there is no international right to abortion.” Joining forces for a groundbreaking virtual-signing event, these governments represent a consolidated resistance movement against pressure from United Nations bureaucracy and other bodies to promote a “human right” to abortion, which has ramped up significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Declaration states that there is no “international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion,” which is “consistent with the long-standing international consensus that each nation has the sovereign right to implement programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies.” The event was co-sponsored by Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Uganda, and the United States, and signed by a diverse group of countries: Bahrain, Belarus, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eswatini, Gambia, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Nauru, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Zambia. It remains open for more governments to join.
Never before have governments united on this scale with a singular focus on women’s health and the defense of the unborn. The hope, as articulated by United States’ representative Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, is that the Declaration and resultant coalition of countries will have a tangible impact on international engagement at the UN. Such engagement is key. To successfully ward off pro-abortion pressure at the international institutions, governments committed to defending unborn life must work together, uniting their sovereign voices to shut down bureaucratic overreach. After all, it is national governments, not international bureaucracy, that should chart the course for the UN. In addition to its pro-life impact, the Geneva Declaration is a serious show of diplomatic force in reclaiming the rightful role of governments in the international order.
For far too long, the pro-abortion movement has misappropriated the language of human rights—abusing it to legitimize the killing of unborn children, in the name of “women’s equality.” A real attention to human rights must instead be predicated on the protection of all persons, including the most vulnerable. Signatory governments represented by ministers, ambassadors, and other senior officials committed at the event to improving women’s health and ending maternal mortality—the real work of human rights—while ensuring the right to life of the unborn.
As highlighted by Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women's Health at HHS, it is “solidarity for the health of our civilizations” that unites the signatory governments. According to Huber, the United States views the signing as representing “not the end of this effort, but a key milestone in the journey” to strengthen the right to life at the international level. Huber reiterated the commitment of the current administration to continue building the coalition, one of the many significant pro-life undertakings at stake in the coming election.
While the COVID climate has resulted in intensified abortion promotion, the Declaration demonstrates that political tides are shifting in defense of life. Much of this may be explained by the overt coerciveness of abortion activism at the hands of the international institutions, forcing governments to wake up in defense of their national laws and culture. Most strikingly, Hungary and Poland, which often find themselves vulnerable to significant pressures given their European Union membership, have taken a definitive pro-life stance by signing the Declaration.
Additionally, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal handed down a significant pro-life decision on the same day as the Declaration signing. The Polish court affirmed that abortions in cases of fetal disability are unconstitutional, thus protecting the lives of unborn children with disabilities. This is a crucial affirmation of the right to life of all persons. Disability must never be a death sentence, whether inside or outside of the womb. As Poland has done, it is important that governments demonstrate consistency in their national and international positions, putting the world on notice that they will defend life in all fora.
The real benefit of the Geneva Declaration is that in signing, countries like Poland officially join the ranks of other governments committed to the same goal—they are not alone. This has enormous implications not only for the issue of abortion, but also for national sovereignty at large. The success of the international pro-life movement depends on the ability of governments to hold their ground against ever mounting international pressures. Certainly, the Declaration makes clear that there is strength in numbers, and great hope for the future of pro-life protections.