UN experts says US state abortion bans ‘risking millions of women, girls’


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 3rd June. UN rights experts on Friday warned that millions of women and girls across the United States have suffered an alarming deterioration in access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, after the US Supreme Court decision overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022.

The experts noted abortion has been banned in 14 states across the country, and the consequences of the Supreme Court decision has reverberated throughout the entire legal and policy system.

“The regressive position taken by the US Supreme Court dismantling 50 years of precedent protecting the right to abortion in the country, puts millions of women and girls at serious risk,” they said.

They added that violations of International Human Rights Law had resulted from the landmark decision, which overturned the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision – in effect, returning abortion law to state legislatures.

Top experts acknowledged that the bans have made abortion services largely inaccessible and denied women and girls their fundamental human rights to comprehensive healthcare including sexual and reproductive health.

They added it 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,” the experts said. 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.

They said that existing exceptions in some cases – in order to save a mother’s life, or conceptions resulting from rape or incest although narrow, have proved unworkable in practice.

“The conditions of the exceptions often do not reflect medical diagnosis and sometimes exclude health-threatening conditions,” they said:

“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.”

They warned that 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.

“We are particularly alarmed by the increasing reports of threats to the lives of abortion service providers across the country,” the experts said.

They said that the threat of criminalization in many States has discouraged women and girls from engaging with the health system and seeking prenatal care the experts said.

“It is particularly alarming that some clinics are now refraining from providing abortion-related services, even in States where it remains legal,”.

According to the experts, state bans have been accompanied by a steady and rapid erosion of the right to privacy, as police and other criminal investigators increasingly rely on data to track those seeking abortions or those who aid and abet them.

They said much of this data can be accessed without a warrant.

“We 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,” they concluded.

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