With all of the noise about the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump and possible misuse of authority by former Vice President Joe Biden, readers can be excused for having missed some of the other recent stories.
One particular story, however, is worth noting because it once again shows the current administration to be more actively pro-life than any other U.S. administration in recent memory.
On Sept. 23, at the opening of the High-Level United Nations Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in New York, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, speaking on behalf of the United States and 18 other countries, defended the pro-life position.
He began by explaining that “the family is the foundational institution of society and thus should be supported and strengthened.” He went on to make clear that abortion isn’t an international human right, regardless of U.N. terminology.
“We do not support references to ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights in U.N. 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 U.N. agencies.
“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. There is no international right to an abortion and these terms should not be used to promote pro-abortion policies and measures.”
Azar was absolutely correct in pointing out the “ambiguous terms and expressions,” such as “sexual and reproductive health and rights” in U.N. writings. That’s precisely how abortion-rights advocates have created rights without expressly stating them. The U.N. has been particularly unapologetic in using misleading terms in its documents.
Perhaps nowhere was this more evident than in November 2018, when the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, published a general comment (a comprehensive text providing legal guidance) on Article 6 of the International Covenant.
Article 6, by the way, begins by stating, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
The general comment begins innocently enough. Paragraph two provides, “Article 6 recognizes and protects the right to life of all human beings. It is the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted even in situations of armed conflict and other public emergencies which threatens the life of the nation.”
Paragraph seven states, “States parties must respect the right to life and have the duty to refrain from engaging in conduct resulting in arbitrary deprivation of life. …”
Then comes paragraph eight, which places serious limitations on what a nation can and can’t do when it comes to laws regulating abortion:
“[Restrictions] on the ability of women or girls to seek abortion must not … discriminate against them or arbitrarily interfere with their privacy. States parties must provide safe, legal and effective access to abortion where the life and health of the pregnant woman or girl is at risk, or where carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the pregnant woman or girl substantial pain or suffering … . In addition, States parties may not regulate pregnancy or abortion in all other cases in a manner that runs contrary to their duty to ensure that women and girls do not have to undertake unsafe abortions, and they should revise their abortion laws accordingly. For example, they should not … apply criminal sanctions against women and girls undergoing abortion or against medical service providers assisting them in doing so … . States parties should not introduce new barriers and should remove existing barriers that deny effective access by women and girls to safe and legal abortion, including barriers caused as a result of the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers. …”
In other words, according to the committee charged with interpreting it, the very provision in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that deals with the right to life should be read so as to legalize abortion and assure that medical personnel who conscientiously object don’t interfere with a woman seeking one. That would seem to suggest that doctors and nurses could be compelled to do what they might consider murder.
The pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights issued a statement welcoming and “firmly” supporting the committee’s general comment. It noted that the “language of the comment affirms that abortion is a human right, that preventable maternal deaths are a violation of the right to life, and that the right to life begins at birth.”
With Azar’s statement, the Trump administration pushed back against the idea of an international human right to abort, and that didn’t please everyone.
Caitlin Horrigan, director of advocacy at Planned Parenthood Global, released a statement saying that it “should come as no surprise the Trump-Pence administration is lobbying other countries to join them in working to undermine sexual and reproductive rights on a global scale at the United Nations. From day one, the Trump-Pence administration has tried to take away access to birth control and safe, legal abortion,” according to NPR.
That’s not exactly correct, but strong support for the pro-life cause is one reason why Trump, to the confusion of many pundits, continues to poll high with evangelical Christians. One of the first things he did after his 2017 inauguration was to reinstate the “Mexico City” policy, which prohibits U.S. aid money from going to organizations that provide or promote abortions overseas. Domestically, the Trump administration this year issued new rules restricting federally funded organizations from making referrals for abortions.
Trump also did better with Catholics in the 2016 election than many had predicted. This past weekend, I learned of a possible contributing factor. I was in Alabama, near the studios of EWTN, the Catholic radio and television network. I was with a friend who works in television. He told me that in 2016, EWTN invited both Trump and Hillary Clinton to be interviewed. Clinton declined. Trump went, and EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo interviewed him for about 15 minutes. (The program is available on YouTube.)
In that interview, Trump talked about his movement from pro-choice to pro-life. He said it was driven by several experiences, including one involving some friends of his, a couple. She was pregnant, and they faced a decision. One parent was pro-life and the other was pro-choice. She ultimately gave birth, “and the baby is such a magnificent person, who I know.” Trump told viewers that this had shaped his understanding and helped him become pro-life. (He also said that the pro-choice parent had become pro-life.) Who knows how many voters he persuaded with that interview.
Some people may have doubted Trump’s conversion to the pro-life side or his ability to keep promises. With judicial appointments, domestic lawmaking, and international initiatives such as Azar’s statement at the United Nations, however, this administration is showing greater dedication to the pro-life cause than any other recent administration.
Who would have believed that? Maybe nobody but Trump himself.
Ronald J. Rychlak is the Jamie L. Whitten chair in law and government at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of several books, including “Hitler, the War, and the Pope,” “Disinformation” (co-authored with Ion Mihai Pacepa), and “The Persecution and Genocide of Christians in the Middle East” (co-edited with Jane Adolphe).
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.