EngenderHealth Condemns ‘Unconscionable’ US Supreme Court Decision Overturning Roe v. Wade

We are here, with the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision we knew was coming. With so many issues in the headlines and on our minds, we have been bracing ourselves for this news. According to the three liberal justices dissenting from the Dobbs opinion, “[it] says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs.”

In May, I observed a conversation between my colleague Mohamed Ly, EngenderHealth’s regional director for West and Central Africa, and Lucy Kennedy a filmmaker who produced and directed a documentary film, The 8th, about the repeal of the Irish constitutional amendment that criminalized abortion. They discussed the great strides that Ireland and Benin (in West Africa), have made to increase access to safe, high-quality, and legal abortion.

I listened with a heavy heart as I compared the progress in Ireland and Benin with the SCOTUS decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. A draft of the majority opinion was leaked in early May, and the vitriol with which the justices referred to women, choice, and privacy is distressing. Now, with the official decision, more than half of American states will implement new laws or revert to trigger laws—laws already on their books but not active while Roe v Wade was the law of the land—and 58% of women of reproductive age in the US will have restricted access to safe and legal abortion. We know that restricting legal access to abortion does not decrease abortion; it makes it more dangerous, more expensive, and more inequitable about who can and cannot exercise their right to control their bodies and fertility.

This is unconscionable, and it is unusual if we look across the globe. Since 2000, 37 countries have changed their abortion laws to be more liberal; with very few countries, such as Nicaragua and Poland, passing additional restrictions on abortion. Benin, Argentina, Ireland, Mexico, and others have recognized that abortion must be safe and accessible, that abortion is healthcare, and abortion is a right. The United States has become an outlier in so dramatically restricting the right to abortion.

This is unconscionable, and it is also happening at a time when multiple programs and organizations, both within and outside of the US, are enabling people in this country to access medication abortion, which means many abortions can happen safely and privately. While not risk-free, medication abortion is a much better tool than any we had in the US the last time states were able to restrict abortions to this degree.

This is unconscionable, and it’s likely just the beginning of a broader restriction of our rights. I’m an optimist by nature, but I’m feeling decidedly unoptimistic about rights to and access to safe care for miscarriage, for infertility, and for contraception. I am worried about the right to gay marriage. I am very worried. I am also determined.

Increasing access to high-quality abortion care is a critical component of EngenderHealth’s work in several countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia. We endorse and use the World Health Organization’s 2022 Abortion Care Guidance, which provides a human rights frame, clinical and technical guidance, and context for a range of clinic-based and self-care elements for safe abortion.

We will continue our partnerships and efforts to ensure that people around the world have access to safe, high-quality abortion care, as well as contraception, safe surgery in obstetric care, prevention of and a comprehensive response to gender-based violence, screening and treatment for cervical cancer, HIV, and STIs, and all the other components of comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare.

EngenderHealth supports and joins our partners in the US and around the world who are working on the front lines and behind the scenes to support reproductive rights. We know that such a seismic shift in support for reproductive rights will have ripple effects around the world. As a member of the global family of organizations, service providers, and champions of sexual and reproductive health and rights we will track the impact and engage with partners to mitigate regressive movements that are emboldened by this shameful decision. We remain committed to supporting individuals, communities, health systems, and policy environments to protect and promote the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must do so to advance health, rights, justice, and equality.

Traci L. Baird,
President and CEO, EngenderHealth