(Sources: Chandelis Duster, “US joins countries with poor human rights records to denounce `right’ to abortion,” CNN online, 10/23/2020; Monika Pronczuk, “Why a New Abortion Ban in Poland is Tearing the Country Apart,” The New York Times online, 10/27/2020; Marc Santora, Monika Pronczuk, Anatol Magdziarz, “Polish Women Lead Strike Over Abortion Ruling Amid Threats of Crackdown,” The New York Times online, 10/29/2020.)
It sometimes seems as if the world has slipped into an alternate universe, where facts are no longer recognized as facts, and politicians can blithely and sanctimoniously mouth blatant lies while they cavalierly subvert the democratic processes which purportedly underlie their country’s way of life. A recent case in point is last week’s Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD). This declaration, signed by fewer than thirty-five of the 200 states of the world (thus revealing the word “consensus” in the title to be a falsehood), claims to affirm the “strength of the family and of a successful and flourishing society.” How do they expect to accomplish this? They repudiate international reproductive health guidelines, rejecting abortion as a necessary aspect of women’s human rights, and instead insisting on the “essential priority” of what they call “protecting the right to life.”
Signatories of the GCD include some of the world’s most repressive governments, such as Poland (which has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in Europe), Cameroon (accused of massive human rights violations), Uganda (aggressively attempting to criminalize homosexuality), Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Hungary, and Iraq. The U.S. is a proud signatory of the declaration. The Trump administration has consistently opposed mention of reproductive health and rights in UN documents and refuses funding to international organizations that offer abortion. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has called the declaration “an historic document stating clearly where we as nations stand on women’s health” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has praised the GCD and boasted that under Trump’s leadership the U.S. has “defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always.”
These statements demonstrate the extent to which Trump’s sycophants have fallen into the alternate universe of lies and obfuscation. Far from defending the dignity of human life, the Trump administration’s incompetence and politicization of the COVID pandemic has resulted in well over 220,000 excess deaths of Americans, and the end is nowhere in sight. Moreover, the push by Republicans to confirm the ultraconservative Catholic jurist Amy Coney Barrett means that the right wing now has a clear majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade as well as the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), thereby endangering millions of unemployed and impoverished Americans, many of whom have pre-existing conditions that will make them unable to afford private health insurance.
U.S. public opinion polls have shown that most Americans disagree with Trump and his right-wing base on abortion, health care, gun control, and other key issues. That is why Trump needs to rely on ultraconservative judicial appointees to push his agenda.
Of course, it should be remembered that overturning Roe v. Wade will not criminalize abortion in the U.S. as a whole. Rather, decisions on legality will be left up to the individual states. Now more than ever a woman’s reproductive rights will depend on where she lives. The so-called “blue” states will continue to offer safe and accessible abortion and contraception as part of their comprehensive reproductive health services, while the laws of the “red” states will force women to flee to more enlightened constituencies, risk abortion under unsafe conditions, or carry their pregnancies to term and hope for the best.
Polish women lead protests against abortion ban.
It is worth noting that the Trump strategy of subverting the democratic process by appointing ultraconservative judges to do his bidding is not unique to him. Demagogic politicians in Poland, for example, have circumvented the wishes of the majority of Poles who, like the majority of U.S. citizens, believe that abortion must remain legal under at least some circumstances. Using what Polish women activists and international human rights organizations have called a subservient and right-wing judiciary, the ruling Law and Justice Party has achieved the almost total ban on abortion that it repeatedly failed to obtain through the Polish legislature. For the last six days the Polish nation has been wracked by massive protests and strikes led by women. Catholic Churches have been focal points for many of the women’s protests nationwide, since the Church is a key supporter of the increasingly authoritarian and anti-women measures of the government. The largely female demonstrations have been joined by (male) taxi drivers, farmers, coal miners, and others, all of whom are dissatisfied with their government’s flouting of democratic processes as well as its incompetent response to the corona virus pandemic. (Poland is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.)