(CNSNews.com) -- In a speech before health leaders from 35 countries on Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II stressed that "there is no international human right to abortion," but there is "an international human right to life."
Azar also rejected the "constant drumbeat" at the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) about "reproductive rights," which he explained essentially means "unfettered access to abortion."
As for abortion laws in the United States, Azar further stressed that "there is no role in this debate for interference from U.N. agencies or other countries."
The HHS secretary, appointed by President Trump in January 2018, made his remarks at Blair House, a guest house for foreign visitors across the street from the White House. The 35 foreign health leaders are part of a coalition, led by the United States, Hungary, and Brazil to promote a pro-family, pro-life, and pro-national sovereignty agenda worldwide.
"[P]lease 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," said Azar.
"Thank you for taking a courageous stand with us for the unborn," he added. "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," said the HHS secretary.
"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," he continued. "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," he stressed. "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."
Explaining the importance and strength of the coalition, Azar said, "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," said Azar. "On the other hand, there is an international human right to life."
"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," said Azar.
"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,'" said the secretary.
"What reproductive rights are they talking about?" he asked. "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."
Azar then explained that this "informal coalition" of 35 countries must work together more vigorously to advance its agenda in 2020. "[O]our partnership must continue to educate like-minded countries about what really is at stake, increase our ranks, and work in closer partnership," he said.
"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," said Azar. "This conference will highlight the lifesaving work we can do together to improve the health and outcomes for women across the globe."
In closing, Azar said, “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."
To read the entire speech, click here.