Pro-life leaders everywhere agree that the sheer amount of pro-life activity undertaken by the Trump administration has far exceeded all expectations. However, what I find remarkable is that this activity includes initiatives that won’t grab big headlines in the media, but that are having a dramatically positive impact on the ground. These sorts of pro-life initiatives can’t be ascribed to cynical politicking or electioneering, since in many cases even relatively well-informed pro-life Americans won’t even know about them or appreciate their importance.
Case in point: Several weeks ago, the administration hosted an international strategy conference about how to promote the pro-life case at the global level. Representatives of 34 different countries attended. This included ambassadors, ministers, and other government officials. At the conference, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar delivered a blockbuster pro-life speech. I strongly urge you to read it.
Secretary Azar did not couch his words in the sterile and ambiguous diplomatic language that infects international politics, but rather laid out a crystal-clear agenda. “I stated this fact at the United Nations this past September, and I’ll repeat it here: there is no international human right to abortion,” he said. “On the other hand, there is an international human right to life”. He added: “President Trump has been clear, at the U.N. and on the world stage: Health care exists to improve health and preserve human life—the universal goal we all share.”
This conference comes months after the United States spearheaded a coalition of countries to oppose the anti-life and anti-family agenda at the U.N. summit marking the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. That summit took place in Nairobi in November. Pro-lifers were dismayed that the proceedings were rigged to exclude pro-life voices. But the United States wasn’t having any of it. In a statement with ten other countries, the U.S. affirmed that there is “no international right to abortion” and registered their protest against the use of “ambiguous” language such as “sexual and reproductive health and rights” in the summit’s documents.
HHS Secretary Exposes the Anti-Life U.N. Agenda
You probably didn’t hear a whole lot about the heroic pro-life efforts at the U.N. summit, or the Trump administration’s recent pro-life conference. There’s a simple reason for this: most people (including the media) don’t pay very close attention to international politics. Up to a point, this is understandable. It’s challenging enough to stay informed about the political goings-on in our own country, let alone the nuances of what’s happening in the conference rooms of international bodies like the United Nations. And yet, the most-informed pro-life leaders (including, it’s worth mentioning, St. John Paul II) know that the opaque and often-tedious bureaucratic maneuvering at the U.N. and other international political bodies has enormous (and often enormously sinister) practical consequences.
Many anti-life and anti-family global elites have selected international bodies such as the U.N. as their vehicle of choice for pushing radical social change. The reasons for this are myriad. In the first place, since so few ordinary citizens pay attention to what happens at the UN, it’s often possible to push through a radical agenda with minimal grassroots pushback. In the second place, it’s efficient. One single change made at the international level can potentially lead to numerous changes downstream, at the national level. For instance, push through a single document at the U.N. declaring that there exists a global “right to abortion” and suddenly anti-life, pro-abortion, and pro-population control politicians everywhere have the tools they need to pressure their countries to liberalize abortion laws – to get “in conformity with international standards” (often, it should be noted, with the implicit threat of losing financial aid hanging over their heads if they don’t).
HHS Secretary Azar lucidly exposed the way leftists are using the U.N. to strong-arm sovereign nations into adopting pro-abortion laws. “If the other side’s goal of making abortion an international human right becomes a reality, it will mean all countries with laws protecting the unborn will be in violation of international human rights laws, with all the consequences that could carry,” he lamented.
“I am sure you are all familiar with the constant drumbeat in the halls of the United Nations and the WHO to normalize the terms ‘sexual and reproductive health’ and ‘reproductive rights.’ What reproductive rights are they talking about? In this context, it is increasingly becoming clear that some U.N. agencies and countries want this to mean unfettered access to abortion, and we cannot let this threat go unanswered.”
These are astonishingly strong and encouraging words.
Concerns about the Vatican
It is one of the many strange signs of these strange times that while the United States is strenuously exposing and opposing the agenda of anti-life globalists, the Vatican is causing pro-life and family leaders extreme concern by appearing to cozy up to the same globalists. The concern seems well-justified. In a recent article at the National Catholic Register, journalist Edward Pentin pointed to the various statements and other actions by the Vatican in recent years that have appeared to telegraph an unqualified enthusiasm for the U.N. and its agenda.
It is the “unqualified” that is the problem. The United Nations is a good idea, in theory. Certainly, we need global cooperation among nations, to maintain peace and to protect human rights and dignity. There is no doubt that there are good people involved in the U.N. doing good work, fighting against hunger, exposing human rights violations, and fostering dialogue among nations. And yet, we cannot afford to ignore the fact that many early hopes for the U.N. have been thwarted by the way an admirable idea has been hijacked by anti-life and anti-family ideologues.
Pope Benedict XVI was keenly aware both of the potential benefits of international cooperation, as well as the threat that globalist politics devoid of correct first principles poses. In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict laid out the principles that must guide authentic development efforts. “Charity in truth is…the principal force behind the true development of every person and of all humanity,” he wrote. “Only with charity, illumined by reason and by faith, is it possible to achieve goals of development endowed with human and humanizing values.”
In paragraph 28, the Holy Father specifically laments the practices of demographic control, the promotion of contraception, the imposition of abortion, the practice of sterilization and the cynical effort to “export this mentality to other States as if it were a form of cultural progress.” For the Pope and Church, this is unacceptable, for “openness to life is at the center of true development.” Without this openness, the whole society withers away.
As Pentin observes, however, in recent years the Vatican has hosted several conferences with U.N. bodies and other globalist figures, and has released several statements, in which mention of or emphasis on the central importance of spiritual truths and the right to life from conception to natural death are conspicuously absent. As Pentin reports, in recent years “the Vatican has offered largely uncritical support of the SDGs [UN’s Sustainable Development Goals] and hosted its proponents, embarked on regular collaboration with population-control advocates and U.N.-affiliated organizations notorious for promoting abortion and gender ideology, and promoted ‘human fraternity,’ a U.N.-backed concept that some see as a push toward a one-world religion.”
Among many concerns has been the central role played at several Vatican-hosted conferences by Jeffrey Sachs, a fervid proponent of population control. Then there was the dismaying presence of Paul Ehlich, the author of The Population Bomb, at a Vatican conference in 2017. Ehrlich fanatically supports population control and has even expressed his support for forced abortion. Equally troubling is the Vatican’s growing closeness with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent billions of dollars on blanketing developing nations with contraceptives. Pentin’s article lists other concerns as well.
Time to Go on the Offense
There is room for cooperation with the United Nations on worthy initiatives. However, extreme caution is warranted, since long experience has proved that pro-abortion U.N. diplomats will strive to hijack even the most seemingly-innocuous (and indeed positive!) U.N. initiatives to push abortion, sterilization, contraception, radical sex education and gender ideology on other nations. No amount of positive work on protecting the environment or fighting modern slavery or human trafficking can justify turning a blind eye to blatant and massive direct attacks on human life.
At this time, we desperately need clarity, courage, leadership, and strenuous effort to proactively promote pro-life and pro-family values at the U.N. and other international bodies. HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s speech at the Trump administration’s pro-life conference last month provides an admirable and inspiring blueprint for how to push back. After all, it is not enough merely to object to or oppose the pro-abortion agenda; we need to be working to pro-actively protect the unborn, women, and children by pursuing a positive agenda.
This is precisely the vision that Azar’s speech laid out. In the past few years, he said, “we built a pro-life, pro-family, pro-sovereignty coalition that is a force to be reckoned with. But our informal coalition needs to grow and be more active. We cannot stand still, because we have much work to do in 2020 and beyond.”
“Together, our nations can join together to support more sensible language in U.N. and WHO resolutions, which puts the focus back on critical women’s health needs,” he added. “Further, we can fight to insert language making it clear to U.N. agencies and other countries that national context and local laws take precedence on these matters, providing protections for our countries even when we don’t prevail on definitional issues.”
Secretary Azar concluded, assuring those present that “my team will be ready to work with your countries to ensure a focus on national sovereignty and a positive vision for women’s health, rather than controversial policies which will never enjoy consensus.”