By Valerie Huber and Elyssa Koren
This article originally appeared on Newsweek
In a world where enormous sums of money rarely raise eyebrows, Bill Gates’ new pledge of $7 billion in aid to Africa should give us pause. “Constantly reducing maternal mortality, constantly reducing neonatal mortality, under-5 mortality, that’s really the metric that drives our foundation,” said Gates while announcing the four-year pledge on November 17 in Nairobi. While laudable in theory, it is imperative that we ask—what will this money actually do?
International development funding inevitably comes with strings attached, and more often than not, those strings are tied to ideological agendas. Case in point: the Gates Foundation’s aggressive track record of abortion promotion, which stands in sharp contrast to the robust pro-life culture of many African countries. Abortion is illegal or heavily restricted across most of the continent. But money has a way of maneuvering around the law, and ultimately, much of the reason for pushing tremendous sums on developing countries is to dismantle established laws that protect unborn life. In this context, $7 billion could go a long way toward undermining what people actually want for their countries.
In a coincidental, but telling, twist of fate, on the same day as the Gates announcement, the world’s leading government coalition promoting global women’s health policy convened at the United States Capitol to commemorate its second anniversary. Representing 36 countries across 5 continents, the Geneva Consensus group is united by the fundamental belief that women’s health should not be held hostage by ideological agendas. Currently led by the government of Brazil, and soon transitioning to Hungarian leadership, the group is proof positive that there exists vibrant international momentum to support both woman and unborn child in the pursuit of actual health care.
When women and families are supported, it changes the options available to them, benefitting all, including the unborn. As noted at the commemoration by the ambassador of Hungary to the U.S., Szabolcs Takács, the Hungarian government holds firm to the view that, “every human being should have the right to life…and fetal life shall be subject to protection from the moment of conception.” Putting real-life policy punch behind its words, Hungary allocates 6 percent of its GDP for pro-family support, including a 2020 policy according tax exemption benefits to women with four or more children, resulting in a dramatic reduction in national abortion rates.
Ambassador Alfonso Quiñónez of Guatemala echoed his European counterpart, stating, “life starts at conception. For us there is no question,” further citing a statement from Guatemala’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, that Guatemala “will continue to fight for life in all stages from conception to natural death.” The ambassador cited recent efforts on the part of his government to combat abortion activism at the United Nations as a testament to Guatemala’s pro-life commitment.
In a heartrending reality check, at the invitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, midwife Agnes Kalonji testified to the crucial importance of targeted women’s health support for reducing maternal deaths in her country. The DRC can be a dangerous place for a woman to give birth, with 600 maternal deaths per 100,000 deliveries, and a similarly tragic infant mortality rate. Her story made it clear: every dollar spent on abortion in pro-life African countries is both illegal and a deep disservice to the women who need life-saving medical attention to safely bring their babies into the world.
Ignoring such transparent and unequivocal pleas from the front lines, wealthy foundations, coupled with international institutions, powerful donor governments, and other partners in the abortion industry, continue to deluge African governments in coercive development funding, often forcing them to betray both national values and the pressing needs of their people. But the Geneva Consensus offers hope that united together, countries can ward off unwanted violations of their national sovereignty.
As highlighted by Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), speaking to the group, the goal of the coalition is to ensure that “international law and international agreements are not rewritten to invent an international right to abortion that would override the duly enacted laws of your countries protecting pre-born babies.” While diverse in geopolitics and worldview, these governments’ efforts to stand together bolsters protections for the most vulnerable, while clearing the path for much-needed improvements to the health of women and girls around the world.
The Geneva Consensus Declaration and ensuing coalition serve as an essential buffer against persistent attempts to lure developing countries, by carrot or by stick, into abandoning protections for unborn life. The hope is that changing abortion dynamics in the U.S. as a result of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will empower developing countries to reject unwanted abortion pressure. And yet, incongruously, the Biden administration is among the leading contributors to abortion abroad, with a 9 percent increase in 2022 to its annual budget for international “sexual and reproductive health and rights” services.
Big donors such as the Gates Foundation and the U.S. government should take heed of the Geneva Consensus. Governments at the receiving end of their “help” can speak for themselves, and together, they are speaking loud and clear—every person is born with inherent dignity and the right to life, and real women’s health gains should never be held hostage by the abortion agenda.
Valerie Huber is the architect of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, and former U.S. Special Representative for Global Women’s Health. She serves as president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Health. Find on her on Twitter @ValerieHuber20. Elyssa Koren is director of legal communications forADF International. Follow her on Twitter: @Elyssa_Koren
The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.