The decision of the United States Supreme Court on Friday, which overturns the landmark 1973 ruling, known as the Roe v. Wade case, which granted the right to abortion, is widely anticipated.
It was described by the United Nations Human Rights Chief as “a huge blow to women’s human rights and gender equality.”
In the historic ruling of June 24th, it was decided by six votes to three. The ruling would mean that all the questions pertaining to access to abortion or legality would now go to America’s individual states. As the ruling reads, “the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights group, indicates that more than 20 states are likely to ban abortions now.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said on 24th of June, “this decision strips such autonomy from millions of women in the US, in particular those with low incomes and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, to the detriment of their fundamental rights. More than 50 countries with previously restrictive laws have liberalized their abortion legislation over the past 25 years. With today’s ruling, the US is regrettably moving away from this progressive trend.”
Why would it negatively impact already marginalized groups?
The class impact of such a decision may result in jeopardizing the physical and mental health of women who belong to low-income groups. Lack of access to resources forced them to seek out unsafe clinics, which in turn resulted in medical complications and the resort to dangerous home remedies.
UNFPA highlights that, “Whether abortion is legal or not, it happens all too often. Data show that restricting access to abortion does not prevent people from seeking abortion, it simply makes it more deadly.”
The agency feared that more unsafe abortions would occur across the globe. Furthermore, “decisions reversing progress gained have a wider impact on the rights and choices of women and adolescents everywhere,” the agency emphasized.
UN Women also warns that when safe and legal methods are restricted, women end up resorting to less-safe methods, which often have damaging results, “especially for women who are affected by poverty or marginalization, including minority women.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has tabled a similar concern in a tweet, which states that 25 million abortions take place every year and up to 37,000 women die. It further warns that restrictions on abortion don’t bring down the number of abortions.
Potential social ramifications
The UN Women emphasized reproductive rights being integral to women’s rights, a very fact that is upheld by international laws.
“To be able to exercise their human rights and make essential decisions, women need to be able to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to information, education, and services,” it said.
The agency further cautioned in another statement that “the ability of women to control what happens to their own bodies is also associated with the roles women are able to play in society, whether as a member of the family, the workforce, or government.”
The 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which was signed by 179 countries including the United States, recognizes the damaging effects of unsafe abortion and urges all countries to provide post-abortion care to save lives, irrespective of the legal status of abortion in a country.
Furthermore, UNFPA warns that if unsafe abortions continue at the same pace, the 3rd Sustainable Development Goal, which talks about maternal health and to which all UN Member Nations have committed, will be at risk of not being met.