Opinion | The Supreme Court has undermined U.S. credibility on human rights

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For decades, the United States has been a world leader in advancing reproductive rights and women’s rights. But now, overturning Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to American credibility in this role. And that, in turn, undermines U.S. international advocacy on these issues, which could lead to a cascade of negative consequences around the world.

Last week’s Supreme Court decision on abortion sparked a barrage of criticism from world leaders, protests at US embassies abroad and general embarrassment for President Biden, who is traveling to Europe . In the longer term, the international erosion of confidence in the United States’ commitment to reproductive rights and the effects of changes in American law could do real damage, according to foreign officials, lawmakers and government leaders. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with whom I spoke .

“Given our historical experience, it is certain that the restrictions that will flow from the United States Supreme Court decision will have significant global implications,” said Karla Berdichevsky Feldman, executive director of the National Center for Gender Equity and Reproductive Health at the Mexican Ministry. of Health said Monday during an online event hosted by PAI, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive health care for women and girls around the world.

She said the Supreme Court had set a dangerous precedent by ruling on women’s health issues without considering scientific evidence or health outcomes – which she said could undermine progress in countries that are struggling. are currently moving towards the legalization or decriminalization of abortion, such as Mexico and Argentina.

For now, the United States is still the largest funder of bilateral family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide through USAID-sponsored programs in nearly 40 countries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement on the Supreme Court’s decision, saying that “under this administration, the State Department will remain fully committed to helping provide access to reproductive health services and advancing reproductive rights around the world”. But there are few details on how the administration will use its limited time in office to reinforce those commitments.

Members of the global NGO community have told me that they are concerned that because US abortion laws and rights are changing rapidly as a result of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the risks inherent in a Republican takeover of Congress next year or the White House in 2025 are much higher. The GOP could use its power over international budgets and programs to export the erosion of abortion rights here at home.

For decades, Democratic presidents have consistently waived what’s known as the Global Gag Rule (or Mexico City Policy), which requires any foreign organization receiving U.S. family planning aid to certify that it does not participate. abortion-related services. Republican presidents have consistently reinstated it.

But the Trump administration has gone further than any of its predecessors by dramatically expanding the scope of the restrictions to cover more than $7 billion in US global health programs. Data shows that the administration’s action has had dire effects on the health of women and girls, especially in LGBTQ, rural, poor and other marginalized communities. Now that Roe vs. Wade was overturned, the fear is that a future GOP administration could push those restrictions even further.

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“When the Global Gag Rule took effect in the Trump administration, it weakened and dismantled entire health care systems,” PAI President and CEO Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins told me. Public health organizations in developing countries have always had to worry about the ebb and flow of politics in Washington, she said. But the repeal of Roe vs. Wade raises more fundamental concerns about America’s reliability as a partner.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), the only female member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been trying for years, unsuccessfully, to pass legislation to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule. The impact of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade will have lasting consequences for the health and freedom of women around the world, she told me.

“Internationally, this decision will compound the damage already done by the Trump administration’s reckless restrictions on access to care, which put the health of women, children and families at risk,” she said. . “It is shameful that extreme partisan ideology informs policies that will have real and punitive consequences for women seeking health services.”

Supreme Court rulings could also undermine U.S. leadership in promoting other related human rights abroad, including the right to privacy, the right to be free from discrimination, the right not to be tortured and the right to life – the mother’s right to life, that is.

As a UN team of experts stated last week, the United States could now be considered in direct violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that governments “shall provide access safe, legal and effective abortion” when the health of the mother is threatened or in cases of rape and incest. The pact also requires governments not to criminalize abortion, which invariably forces women to resort to unsafe abortions.

The majority decision of the Supreme Court in the Dobbs the case does not even address the international human rights legal implications. And now, experts warn, the United States is among a handful of countries backsliding on reproductive rights, like Poland, Ecuador, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

“America is now aligning itself with those same countries that the United States has often criticized for their human rights abuses, including the way women and girls are treated,” said Macarena Saez, Director executive of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, told me. “The United States is now an outlier in terms of democracies.”

What happens in the United States does not stay in the United States. America’s about-face from being a leader in promoting reproductive rights and women’s rights to a retrograde outlier will cause real suffering, and not just for Americans. The Supreme Court has done a disservice to the rights of people all over the world.

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