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The Overturning of Roe v. Wade Is an Assault on Women and Democracy Globally

NEW YORK—The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to overturn Roe v. Wade—the 1973 landmark case protecting the right to abortion—is an assault on women’s rights, human rights, and democracy that will have a damaging impact around the world.

The decision reverses nearly 50 years of precedent in the United States, explicitly ending federal Constitutional protections for abortion, diminishing the rights of women, and threatening their access to reproductive care. With the significant hurdles already confronting those seeking to access reproductive care in the U.S., this decision will not only exponentially increase those who are impacted, but will hurt communities systemically failed by health systems the most—especially communities of color and poor women.

This is particularly concerning given the role the United States has played in championing human rights globally. Roe v. Wade inspired movements and laws in countries such as Tunisia and Cape Verde, and activists across the globe have expressed alarm at the prospect of other countries emulating the Supreme Court’s decision. This ruling may also signal a return to U.S. obstructionism on sexual and reproductive health and rights globally, and a renewed effort to withdraw U.S. funding for reproductive health care.

“The majority’s decision will not only wreak untold harm on women and families in the U.S., it could have reverberating damage around the world, rolling back hard-won advances in other nations and emboldening anti-choice movements,” said Laleh Ispahani, co-director of Open Society-U.S.

Twenty-four countries still prohibit abortion, including Malta, Honduras, Senegal, and the Philippines. More than 50 countries have severe restrictions in place. And in countries such as Poland, rollbacks of basic rights, including restrictions on abortion access, have happened alongside a rise in authoritarian leadership.

But there are signs of hope, too. Over the past decade, African countries such as Benin have reversed or relaxed colonial-era abortion laws, while Latin American states such as Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico have advanced towards decriminalization. In Colombia, for example, feminist lawyers and advocacy groups won exceptions to the country’s blanket abortion ban in 2006. By 2022, they had won cases that decriminalized all abortion before 24 weeks of gestation. In Mexico, pro-choice groups and strategic litigation efforts resulted in the Mexican Supreme Court decriminalizing abortion in 2021. In Argentina, feminist movements secured the adoption of legislation legalizing abortion in 2020.

Open Society has been proud to invest in grassroots and national reproductive rights organizations who are fighting back at this moment, both in the United States and globally. Today, those groups are facing an unprecedented challenge to their efforts in the communities they serve. Now more than ever, we must stand with them to reject further attempts to deny and take away long-established human rights. 

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