The time I had to apologize for America
I was honored to serve our nation in the Trump administration. But in my role as U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health, I found myself on a number of occasions having to apologize to foreign officials for what they viewed as attempted “ideological colonization” of their countries at the hands of the Clinton and Obama Administrations.
Particularly in developing countries, officials privately described the intense pressure from the U.S. to abandon foundational values that defined their nations, sometimes accompanied by the threat of losing lifesaving foreign assistance if they did not relent. Private conversations with diplomats from a variety of countries revealed widespread sentiment that the U.S. would name and shame these nations simply for disagreeing with progressive Western positions on abortion or family issues. Often, the U.S. would join coalitions of progressive countries to dial up the pressure. Countries were even compelled to recall their diplomats if they defended their core beliefs in international settings too effectively.
What elicited such a strong response to the U.S. and other progressive nations? Consistently, it was the right to govern themselves when it came to abortion and defending the foundational institution of the family. For decades, this well-funded and relentless international campaign against life and the family has gained momentum, too often with U.S. complicity.
I found that even with U.S. support for a nation’s sovereignty on these issues during the Trump administration, abortion promotion was such a priority for progressive nations that promoting it often derailed real opportunities to make progress on critical women’s health needs.
We objected to heavy-handed pressure tactics. We recognized that the appropriate and best way nations could protect themselves and their values was by freely linking together in solidarity. So, in October 2020, the U.S. joined 34 other countries representing more than 1.6 billion people in every region of the world to sign the Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD). This historic coalition — for the first time ever — committed to work together around common priorities to one, improve women’s health, two, underscore that there is no international right to abortion, three, support the family as foundational to society, and four, defend the sovereign right of nations to make their own laws on these sensitive issues.
Congress requires neutrality regarding abortion in foreign assistance programs. It is up to individual governments to legislate according to their own priorities and values. The Geneva Consensus Declaration supports this sovereign right. We stood alongside these countries to protect their national identity and the human rights of all people as we jointly reaffirmed the “inherent dignity and worth of the human person… and all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The coalition was cited as a major accomplishment by pro-life organizations and the mainstream media. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared the GCD to be “without contest, the most significant international commitment made in the history of the pro-life movement…that forever changed the international profile of support for life.”
Today I’m deeply concerned that the same tactics used by Presidents Clinton and Obama are being employed by President Biden, only with greater fervor. The Geneva Consensus Declaration may be the only thing standing in the way of their triumph.
From the beginning, the Biden administration is proving to be the most pro-abortion administration, so the importance that it seems to be placing on dismantling this global coalition is no surprise. The GCD coalition is deemed so groundbreaking and significant that pro-abortion and anti-family advocacy groups warn that decades-long gains on their radical agenda are in serious jeopardy. Even now, opposing forces lament that the GCD is currently being used as a “global organizing tool for conservative states and movements.”
On day one of his administration, President Biden removed the GCD from the Health and Human Services website — the only discernible policy removed on Inauguration Day. On day eight, he withdrew the U.S. from the GCD, and then followed it up by exerting not-so-subtle pressure on countries to leave the coalition through public pronouncements and official diplomatic communications to foreign ministries. On numerous occasions, the president and his senior staff have made clear that they would promote abortion as part of their “sexual freedom agenda” and as a fundamental human right in both domestic and international policies. These actions taken together make clear that defeating the values contained in the GCD is a top international policy priority for Biden.
The Geneva Consensus Declaration countries must remain unified and must also add new members, because there are far more than 34 countries that share the values contained therein. Influential U.S. voices must step up and support our friends in foreign capitals.
The GCD coalition is the best defense of life and family across the globe. In this difficult season, pro-life and pro-family Americans can and should cheer on coalition countries, but we must also keep our own government accountable so that Biden does not violate the law by engaging in the same ideological colonization employed by the Clinton and Obama administrations. Billions of people and dozens of nations around the world are counting on us.
Valerie Huber served as the U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration. She is a guest contributor at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.