Sep 24, 2019

U.S. urges UN to omit reproductive health terms from policies

Alex Azar. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urged world leaders at the UN General Assembly Monday to exclude mentions of reproductive health in policy documentation because such language could "promote practices, like abortion."

Context: The Trump administration has favored conservative policies on reproductive health, specifically as it pertains to a woman's right to an abortion. During President Trump's tenure, several states have begun to roll back abortion rights, with the underlying hope that Trump's conservative appointments to the Supreme Court could overturn or diminish Roe v. Wade.

There is no international right to an abortion and these terms should not be used to promote pro-abortion policies and measures."
— Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speech to UN

Details: Azar noted during his address at a meeting on universal health coverage that abortion laws vary at a global level, as he argued leaving terms referencing reproductive health out would protect differences between countries on the issue.

  • He said such terms do not adequately take into account the key role of the family in health and education, "nor the sovereign right of nations to implement health policies according to their national context.
  • "We do not support references to ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights in UN documents, because they can undermine the critical role of the family and promote practices, like abortion, in circumstances that do not enjoy international consensus and which can be misinterpreted by UN agencies," Azar said.

The big picture: Azar spoke on behalf of the U.S. and other nations, including Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Saudi Arabia, The Hill notes.

Go deeper: How many steps it takes to get an abortion in each state

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