Menu Menu

Rights groups call on the UN to intervene over US abortion access

Almost 200 non-profit organisations from around the world have issued an ‘urgent appeal’ to the United Nations to ensure the US safeguards women’s bodily autonomy.

Last June, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe V Wade, the integral ruling from 1973 that gave women the constitutional right to have an abortion up to 24 weeks.

Fracturing reproductive protections in America, the decision ignited a seismic social and legal change in the country by shifting power to regulate abortions into the hands of individual states.

So far, at least a dozen have moved to ban or heavily restrict the procedure and approximately 22 million women now face a plethora of public health harms as a result.

With this only set to intensify in the coming months, almost 200 human rights organisations from around the world have this week issued an ‘urgent appeal’ to the United Nations to intervene to ensure the US safeguards women’s bodily autonomy.

States where abortion is legal, banned or under threat - The Washington Post

‘By overturning the established constitutional protection for access to abortion and through the passage of state laws, the US is in violation of its obligations under international human rights law,’ reads the letter.

Among the signatories are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Global Justice Centre, as well as several smaller US-based charities. They are joined by a broader coalition of groups and advocates in warning that ‘people residing in the US who can become pregnant are facing a human rights crisis.’

Calling on UN mandate holders to do more to confront this issue, they’re seeking to draw the world’s attention to both the suffering that the ruling is inflicting on women and the staggering level of ‘cognitive dissonance required for the US to claim a role as a global champion of human rights when millions of its own citizens are living under an extremist anti-abortion policies.’

Including damning examples since Roe was overturned (such as the case of a patient who was left to bleed at home for 10 days following a miscarriage because hospital staff feared violating the ban if they interfered), they note that the UN committee has already established that denial of abortion can cause ‘physical and mental suffering so severe in pain and intensity as to amount to torture.’

U.S. Abortion Bans Are A 'Human Rights Crisis' That Violate International Law, Groups Tell UN

Additionally, the letter argues that while Dobbs is devastating for everyone, it has had and will have an outsize impact on minorities and those earning low incomes who must already deal with documented discrimination within and outside the healthcare system.

This, it says, is consistent with the country’s history of devaluing the lives of Black women, who are hit worst by abortion restrictions.

‘Abortion restrictions deny women’s decisional and bodily autonomy in a way that rejects the agency, dignity and equality of people who can become pregnant,’ Christine Ryan, legal director of the Global Justice Centre, tells the Guardian.

‘The US must be castigated on the world stage for its treatment of women, girls, and others who can become pregnant – the scale and intensity of human rights violations that the US is inflicting on its population are near unfathomable at this point.’


Thred Newsletter!

Sign up to our planet-positive newsletter