Duckworth, Murphy and 23 of Their Senate Colleagues Press Haley On U.S. Efforts To Block International Breastfeeding Resolution
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and 23 of their colleagues expressed concerns today about reports that the United States worked to extract language to ‘protect, promote and support breast-feeding’ within the World Health Assembly’s proposed resolution. The Senators also expressed concerns about the United States’ threat to impose tariffs or cuts in assistance against countries in support of the resolution.
“Women should have access to the most accurate information regarding the benefits and risks associated with infant nutrition methods, and countries should strive to limit inaccurate or misleading marketing campaigns,” the senators wrote. “The United States should be using its role in multilateral organizations to reach consensus on international agreements.”
Earlier this week, Duckworth also released the following statement in response to the Trump administrations opposition to this resolution: “There is no question that breastfeeding plays a critical role in children’s development and helps reduces the risk of life-threatening diseases for children and mothers alike. The health benefits of a mother’s milk simply cannot be overstated, so it is shocking to see the Trump Administration take the opposite position and put the interests of major corporations ahead of public health experts and families around the world. This is yet another sign that under Donald Trump’s presidency, America has lost its way on the global stage and—once again—it comes at the expense of mothers and their children.”
In addition to Senators Duckworth and Murphy, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dick Durbin (R-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
A full copy of the letter is available below:
July 12, 2018
The Honorable Nikki Haley
United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations
United States Mission to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Dear Ambassador Haley,
We write to express our deep concern over reports that the Trump administration sought to block a resolution recognizing the importance of breastfeeding at the May 2018 World Health Assembly. Given the longstanding support for the promotion of breastfeeding among World Health Organization (WHO) members, we seek additional information regarding why the administration opposed this resolution, and the degree to which U.S. officials threatened to impose punitive trade measures or withhold aid from countries that introduced or supported the resolution.
As you know, nearly 40 years of scientific research have demonstrated the benefits of breastfeeding for infant and child nutrition and development. Notable international organizations, including WHO, UNICEF and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have published statements detailing the benefits of breastfeeding, and promoted policies to increase breastfeeding rates. Further studies by The Lancet and Harvard Medical School found that breastfeeding could prevent more than 800,000 child deaths a year around the world and 3,340 premature deaths a year in the United States. Many families, however, choose to use infant formula. This is an important option for families who elect to use formula exclusively–or in addition to–breast milk. Women should have access to the most accurate information regarding the benefits and risks associated with infant nutrition methods, and countries should strive to limit inaccurate or misleading marketing campaigns.
The administration’s reported actions to pressure other countries from introducing the resolution or to remove language to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” are particularly concerning, and we seek additional clarification regarding any threats to withhold foreign assistance or to punish countries through trade measures in response to actions related to the proposed resolution. The United States should be using its role in multilateral organizations to reach consensus on international agreements. Instead, in this instance as in other recent events, the United States has needlessly threatened and intimidated allies while ceding leadership on international policy to Russia.
As we work with you to improve maternal and child health, we request your insight into the administration’s actions to oppose WHO’s resolution recognizing the importance of breastfeeding, including any coordination you may have had with the Department of Health and Human Services. We look forward to receiving additional information regarding this situation in writing or in a briefing from your staff.
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