Doctors and pro-choice activists have condemned the Roe v Wade reversal, describing it as an ‘unconscionable attack’ that will leave Supreme Court justices with ‘blood on their hands’ and cause a global chilling effect on rights women.
In a statement signed by more than 100 global healthcare organisations, including the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), doctors said the US Supreme Court’s ruling was “a catastrophic blow” to millions of people, warning: “This is a decision that will cost lives for years to come.
Dr Edward Morris, RCOG Chairman, said: “This decision is an unconscionable attack on the health and rights of women and girls in the United States… It is shocking to think that the future of so many women and girls was dictated by policy rather than evidence-based opinion.
RCOG President-elect Dr Ranee Thakar urged governments to support health workers in providing women with safe abortions, rather than imposing greater legal constraints.
“The chilling effect of the decision will undoubtedly be felt around the world,” she said. “We call on governments to create and protect legal and regulatory environments that support healthcare professionals in providing access to safe and affordable abortion care.”
Since it became clear in May that the Supreme Court was preparing to strike down 1973 legislation that effectively legalized abortion, pro-choice activists and doctors have warned the ripple effect will be felt across the country. internationally, particularly in countries where the right to abortion is fragile. .
Concern is now growing that the decision could embolden the anti-choice movement, increase pressure on health care workers who perform abortions and threaten hard-won gains in countries where stigma around abortions is still rampant.
Activists said they were particularly worried about the impact in Central America, a region with a number of outright abortion bans, and in sub-Saharan Africa. But the message sent by the court’s opinion – that legalizing abortion was “demonstrably wrong from the start” – could resonate almost anywhere, including in the European anomalies of Poland and Malta.
“The fallout from this calculated decision will also reverberate around the world, emboldening other anti-abortion, anti-women and anti-gender movements and impacting other reproductive freedoms,” said Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
“Judges who put their personal convictions ahead of American will, precedent and law will soon have blood on their hands, and we are devastated for the millions of people who will suffer from this cruel judgment.”
Banchiamlack Dessalegn, MSI’s Africa director, said the move could undermine the efforts of the pro-choice movement in countries on the continent. She said, “I am so proud of the steps the Ethiopian government has taken to expand access to abortion over the past two decades; action that has saved countless lives and empowered women to take charge of their future.
“Here and across Africa, US-linked groups have been trying to roll back this progress for years, with well-funded disinformation campaigns and pressure on governments to restrict access. But we are committed to protecting choice. We won’t be going back.
In a statement that did not directly refer to the Supreme Court ruling, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, said it was generally concerned that if women faced more great obstacles to obtaining a termination of pregnancy, more unsafe abortions would take place, especially in low- and low-income countries. middle-income country.
“Nearly all unsafe abortions currently occur in developing countries, and UNFPA is concerned that more unsafe abortions will occur globally if access to abortion becomes more restricted. Decisions that reverse progress made have a wider impact on the rights and choices of women and adolescents everywhere,” he said.
Sarah Shaw, advocacy manager at MSI Reproductive Choices, said history has already shown that decisions made in Washington DC – such as imposing the global gag rule – can “have an impact far beyond [US] borders”.
Shaw added: “But while this vote may embolden the anti-choice movement around the world, it has also motivated the global community to reaffirm the right to choose.
“To anyone who wants to deny someone’s right to make decisions about what is good for their body and their future, our message is… We will never stop working for a world where everyone, everywhere, has the right to choose, and this attack only strengthens our resolve.