- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2021

A 36-nation coalition marked the first anniversary Thursday of a document defending women’s health, life and the family — without the official sanction of the United States, where President Biden withdrew U.S. assent to the Geneva Consensus Declaration soon after he was inaugurated.

Saying he objected to restrictions on nongovernmental organizations that receive U.S. federal funds from paying for abortions or abortion counseling, the president signed a Jan. 28 executive order removing the U.S. from the declaration.

Still, the list of signatories to the pact added two other countries — Russia and Guatemala — this year.

“This coalition could very well be the most effective advocate for real health gains for women, the protection of life and family. Guatemala joined the coalition and is committed to defend life,” said Luis Lam Padilla, Guatemala’s United Nations envoy, at an event on Capitol Hill marking the anniversary.

The event was sponsored by the Institute for Women’s Health, a new group headed by Valerie Huber, who helped lead the effort to create the declaration during her time at the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Global Affairs in the Trump administration. 



Now, she’s working to maintain support for global health efforts.

Ms. Huber said the declaration’s “first pillar was a commitment to expanding women’s health and real health gains, and the second is that life is valuable in all stages of development,” and asserting there is no “international right” to abortion. 

The document also seeks to defend the family as society’s basic unit, and safeguard the rights of nations to protect these values, she explained.

Speaking with The Washington Times before the anniversary event, Ms. Huber said, “For decades, long before I was working in this space, there has been really an international campaign to press certain things as human rights that are, in fact, not human rights. And one of them is abortion.”

But, she added, during her work leading up to the declaration, “I started hearing story after story of countries that had been pressured, intimidated, and threatened” with losing U.S. funding if those nations “refused to change their laws and policies surrounding these issues.”

That put some of these nations in a situation “where they had to make no-win choices.” 

“Either stand firm to the values that many of them said were really core to who they were as a nation, and not then be able to receive certain foreign assistance that was essential for the life of their citizens,” she said, “Or compromise those core principles and then get the foreign assistance.”

She said aid to help provide prenatal care and childbearing assistance, including the treatment of a debilitating condition known as obstetric fistulas, often hung in the balance for poor countries. 

“The issue of abortion as a part of that health care becomes the bitter pill,” Ms. Huber said, if that’s added to the foreign aid mix.

Ms. Huber said she believes the Biden administration is the first “that has linked domestic and global policies explicitly, time and time again, in their communications, surrounding sexual and reproductive health and rights, which includes abortion as if it were [a] human right.”

The Institute for Women’s Health — which Ms. Huber said hopes to be a “thought leader” in advancing the Geneva declaration’s principles — was not the only advocate of the year-old document on Thursday. Senators Steve Daines, Montana Republican, and James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, introduced a concurrent resolution to commemorate the declaration’s anniversary, with 14 Senate cosponsors.

Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, introduced a companion measure in the House, Mr. Daines’ office said.

In a statement, Mr. Lankford said, “Honoring the most basic right of an individual to live should not be controversial, but unfortunately President Biden is determined to be the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history, as demonstrated by his decision to remove the United States from the declaration and promote abortion in other countries.”

The Washington Times requested comment from The White House on both the anniversary and whether the administration would provide health aid funding to nations that remain signatories.

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Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Valerie Huber was an official of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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