US Administration HHS Alex M. Azar II hosts International Health Leaders to Form Pro-Life Coalition

On January 16, 2020, the Trump administration hosted an international strategy meeting for ambassadors, ministers, and other government officials to discuss a way forward for the pro-life cause internationally as reported by C-Fam and the WashingtonTimes.

C-Fam reported that last year, 24 of the 34 countries who attended the gathering issued public statements in support of U.S. pro-life diplomacy.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák of Hungary, and the Deputy Chief of Mission Minister-Counselor Fernando Pimentel of Brazil also spoke at the private meeting. 

Official Full Text Remarks at the Blair House

Alex M. Azar II
Foreign health leaders
January 16, 2020
Washington, D.C.
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.
As Prepared for Delivery
Your Excellencies and distinguished guests, welcome to Blair House. Thank you for honoring us with your presence.
The purpose of our gathering today is twofold.
First, today is an opportunity to thank those countries that we have worked with over the past year to promote a positive vision for women's health, to protect the lives of the most vulnerable, to defend the important role of the family, and parents in particular, in the health and well-being of their children, and to respect national sovereignty.
Second, we want to launch an ongoing discussion about how we can more effectively work together this year to build upon the successes we've achieved so far, and invite other countries to partner with us.
Before we proceed with the program, let me introduce our distinguished partners joining me at the head table, from whom you will hear in just a few minutes. Without leadership from these countries, we never would have made the progress we have achieved to date.
First, we have Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák, representing Hungary, a valued ally that has been unafraid to recognize and promote the importance of the family for a healthy society
Next, we have Brazil's Deputy Chief of Mission here in Washington, Minister-Counselor Fernando Pimentel, who was one of our two earliest partners, co-lead on the first joint statement in Geneva at the World Health Assembly, and a partner on each of our three joint statements in 2019.
Before we begin, I want to note that we are holding this important gathering at an auspicious location in the history of American democracy. Many world leaders have stayed here during State Visits, from the Queen of England to the King of Jordan, the former President of Poland, Lech Walesa; President Sadat of Egypt; and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria.
This home was officially established as the White House's guest house for foreign heads of state during World War II, because of how frequently British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited President Franklin Roosevelt and stayed at the White House.
The story goes that it was President Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor, who finally realized the need for an official guest house. One night, she encountered Winston Churchill wandering the hallways of the White House, trying to find President Roosevelt to wake him up for a discussion on war policy—it was 3 AM, and Churchill had a cigar in his hand. Mrs. Roosevelt convinced him the discussion could wait until breakfast.
The conversations that took place between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill helped to forge greater cooperation between Britain and the United States as they sought to defeat evil and bring peace to a world at war. In 1941, they laid down particular principles, known as the Atlantic Charter, for how nations would work together toward peace and prosperity in the post-war world.
The Atlantic Charter highlighted the need for greater cooperation and collaboration, and emphasized that each nation has a sovereign right to self-determination. These same principles came to undergird the work of the institutions that play a role in our modern world, including the United Nations and affiliated agencies like the World Health Organization.
These organizations were founded to protect human rights, defend the vulnerable, and give voices to all nations.
So it is fitting that we are gathered here, in this historic diplomatic setting, to take the next steps in our work to make these organizations live up to their founding ideals.
As a group, we have made much progress already. So, please accept the sincere thanks of the Trump Administration for joining together with us, and for fighting for positive health policies that will enable women and families to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Thank you for taking a courageous stand with us for the unborn. Thank you for standing up for the idea that every life has value. And thank you for making clear that national sovereignty is not a vague or old fashioned concept, but the most important duty for each of us as leaders in our respective governments.
Every country has the right, and the duty to its own citizens, to decide for themselves how laws and policies can best strengthen the family, ensure optimal health for women and adolescents throughout their lifespan, and protect the unborn.
These issues are a topic of active debate here in the United States, in our domestic politics, including with regard to our abortion laws, which are some of the world's most liberal. The Trump Administration has worked extremely hard to provide better protections for the unborn in the United States, and we do so working through our own legislative and legal systems.
There is no role in this debate for interference from U.N. agencies or other countries.
Just as we would never presume to tell France, Denmark, Sweden or the EU to change their laws, we do not welcome interference and pressure from other countries on these issues.
Unfortunately, as all of you well know, this kind of pressure does arise in the context of global health policy. For this reason, the Trump Administration, and my department in particular, reached out to your countries, and other likeminded countries, this past year to come together to state our common views on these issues.
Individually, we can raise our own voices, but together, we are much stronger and have the ability to change the debate. It is not just one or two countries that care about national sovereignty, the family, protecting the unborn, and ensuring a genuinely positive vision for women's health. In fact, many countries share this vision—and thanks to your willingness to work together with us, that can no longer be denied.
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. On the other hand, there is an international human right to life.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Looking back, in 2019, we came together on three joint statements that declared our strong support for a positive global women's health agenda and for standing firm against the assertion of rights that simply do not exist. In all, 24 countries signed on to one or more of the joint statements, and it should be an encouragement to all of us that these countries are home to well over 1 billion human beings.
Together, 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.
In addition to standing up for our views at the United Nations and the World Health Organization, our partnership must continue to educate likeminded countries about what really is at stake, increase our ranks, and work in closer partnership. I hope that today will provide us with some useful ideas for how we can accomplish those goals—and we have little time to spare.
In just a few days the World Health Organization will hold its board meeting in Geneva. A few weeks after that, the Commission on the Status of Women will meet at the U.N. in New York. Several months after that, the WHO will host the World Health Assembly in Geneva. And a few months later the UN General Assembly will meet in New York.
All of these events—and many more in between—are venues where the vital issues I mentioned will be debated. At all of these meetings, 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.
To that end, we invite each of your countries to attend an upcoming global women's health conference on Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Geneva, just before the World Health Assembly begins. This conference will highlight the lifesaving work we can do together to improve the health and outcomes for women across the globe. This is an ideal time and venue to affirm the positive work our nations do to reduce health disparities for women, as well as to focus on critical work yet to be done. A save-the-date invitation is at your seat. Our Special Representative for Global Women's Health, Valerie Huber, will be in contact with more information.
So, thank you again for honoring us with your presence this morning. Thank you for being a part of this important coalition, and thank you for your efforts to bring other likeminded countries on board.
We should all take great pride in the fact that, together, the 35 nations represented in this room are home to 1.7 billion human beings—people whose rights and perspectives we will continue to fight for on the global stage. We hope to work with all of your nations in a more coordinated way in 2020.
At this point, I would like to ask my friends at the head table if they would each like to make a statement. Following those remarks, I will read a letter from Dr. Jane Aceng, Minister of Health of Uganda, who is one of our strongest and most reliable partners but who is unable to join us because of pressing business back in Kampala. Then, we will open it up for a discussion and dialogue on how we can work more effectively together and reach the goals we all share.
Minister of State Novák, would you like to begin?