The US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs Wade abortion rights has dire implications for women and girls worldwide.
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), the world’s largest alliance for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and rights, issued a statement on January 25 following the US Supreme Court decision to overturn its historic 1973 ruling on abortion rights.
With one misguided decision the US Supreme Court has today ended almost 50 years of abortion rights protection for women and girls in the US, and made the prospects of an unprecedented global rollback of sexual and reproductive rights all the more likely going forward.
The Supreme Courts’ decision instantly makes the procedure illegal in at least 22 States. Women and girls are now law-breakers if they seek an abortion in these States.
Criminalising abortion does not remove abortion practices. It just removes access to safe abortions, leaving many vulnerable and plunging sexual and reproductive health and rights for American women and girls into turmoil.
Women in poor and marginalised communities will bear the brunt of the repeal, and there is a definite racial dimension to this.
We already know that black women at all educational levels in the US are most likely to suffer from restrictive abortion policies associated with decreased access to abortion care and increased risk of unintended teen births.
The effects of the repeal will extend way beyond US borders.
As often said, when America sneezes, the world catches the cold. Due to the repeal, experts predict a fall in US bilateral and multilateral funding, thus reducing US ability to support the millions of people worldwide who need access to family planning and abortion services.
The US ruling will lend spurious legitimacy to those worldwide who seek to restrict the rights of women, and may encourage some countries to move towards regressive and restrictive abortion laws.
This will have massive implications, particularly when so many people globally are on the move due to conflicts and other disasters.
Adolescents are particularly at risk. By virtue of their age, they may struggle to pay for safe care or have to travel long distances, which could dangerously delay access to abortion.
Some 3.9 million unsafe abortions among girls aged 15–19 years occur each year, contributing to maternal mortality, morbidity and lasting health problems.
PMNCH is calling on global leaders to firmly protect the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls.
G7 leaders meeting in Germany this year are championing measures to tackle sexual and gender-based violence. The G7 next year, under Japanese leadership, has a crucial opportunity to position these issues within an expanded agenda for sexual and reproductive health and rights and universal health coverage.
Commitments must be backed by rights-based legal frameworks, which support progressive policies on abortion and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Women have to take the lead in discussions and policy-making, calling for much-needed reproductive justice that recognises women’s and girls’ right to choose, and autonomy over their own bodies.
This will require a paradigm shift that puts the rights of women and girls front and centre in country policies and plans.” n