Human Lives Human Rights: Following the US Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022, millions of women and girls across the United States have suffered an alarming deterioration in access to sexual and reproductive healthcare.
Abortion has been banned in 14 States across the country, as of January 2023, and the consequences of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation has reverberated throughout the entire legal and policy system.
The regressive position taken by the US Supreme Court in June 2022, by essentially dismantling 50 years of precedent protecting the right to abortion in the country, puts millions of women and girls at serious risk.
Abortion bans in 14 States have made abortion services largely inaccessible and denied women and girls their fundamental human rights to comprehensive healthcare including sexual and reproductive health.
The bans could lead to violations of women’s rights to privacy, bodily integrity and autonomy, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, equality and non-discrimination, and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and gender-based violence.
Women and girls in disadvantaged situations are disproportionately affected by these bans. They referred to women and girls from marginalized communities, racial and ethnic minorities, migrants, women and girls with disabilities, or living on low incomes, in abusive relationships or in rural areas.
The conditions of the exceptions often do not reflect medical diagnosis and sometimes exclude health-threatening conditions.
Even in cases where physicians determine that the abortion can go ahead, they may still find it difficult to assemble a full team given the reluctance of other health professionals.
The Supreme Court decision also had a chilling effect on doctors and healthcare workers who may face legal consequences for their care decisions, including those regarding medically necessary or life-saving abortions or the removal of foetal tissue from women with incomplete miscarriages.
It is particularly alarming that some clinics are now refraining from providing abortion-related services, even in States where it remains legal.
These abortion bans in many US States have been accompanied by a steady and rapid erosion of the right to privacy, as law enforcement officials increasingly rely on electronic data to track those seeking abortions or those who aid and abet them. Much of this data can be accessed without a warrant.
Rights groups urge both the federal and state Governments to take action to reverse the regressive rhetoric seeping through the legislative system and enact positive measures to ensure access to safe and legal abortion.