U.S. President Donald Trump is speaking out against an article in the New York Times that said the U.S. threatened to withdraw support to developing countries over wording in a resolution to encourage breast feeding.
The report, published Sunday in the Times, said the U.S. wanted to water down the language in a resolution at the World Health Assembly, which took place last spring.
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The NYT reports that U.S. officials wanted to remove the line that asked governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding.” They also wanted to remove the section that would call on politicians to restrict marketing of inappropriate foods for infants and young children.
Trump took issue with the story, saying the U.S. strongly supports breast feeding.
“The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out. The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty,” he wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon.
Attempts to change the resolution were largely unsuccessful, the NYT reports, but the final draft did have some changes from the proposed draft.
For example, any reference to the “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes” — which says there should be no advertising or promotion of breast-milk substitutes including providing free samples — has been removed.
Breast-feeding advocacy groups, such as 1,000 Days, took to Twitter to protest the changes of the resolution at the time.
She wrote that the U.S. delegation had been using bullying tactics to get countries to back down from the resolution, including allegedly threatening trade.
The NYT also reported that the U.S. threatened to implement trade measure and withdraw military aid to Ecuador if the country didn’t drop the resolution. (Ecuador was supposed to introduce the resolution at the Assembly.)
Officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the U.S. recounted the battle to the New York Times, anonymously.
In the end, the Russian Federation stepped in to introduce the resolution, and it was supported by 17 other countries, including Canada, but excluding Ecuador. The U.S. reportedly didn’t threaten Russia.
“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,” Patti Rundall, of the advocacy group Baby Milk Action, told the New York Times.
Officials from the State Department didn’t offer comment to the Times, but officials from Health and Human Services said the original resolution “placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children.”
“We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so,” a H.H.S spokesperson told the newspaper.
Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for H.H.S, told the Associated Press it’s “patently false” to portray the U.S. position as “anti-breastfeeding.”
Government doctors and scientists have long called attention to the health benefits of breastfeeding, both in economically advanced countries and developing nations.
A 2011 surgeon general’s report concluded that “breast milk is uniquely suited to the human infant’s nutritional needs and is a live substance with unparalleled immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that protect against a host of illnesses and diseases for both mothers and children.”
*with files from the Associated Press
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