The Impact of Roe vs Wade on Global Abortion Rights

When abortion rights are under threat, we feel it around the world.

The Supreme Court  has voted to overturn Roe v Wade. This is the biggest setback to women’s rights in the US in a generation and the impact on the right to abortion is felt worldwide.

But the evidence is clear: banning abortion doesn’t prevent abortion, it only makes abortion less safe – and the poorest and most marginalised communities bear the brunt.

As a global reproductive healthcare provider, we see first-hand, every day, how restricting access to safe abortion has terrible consequences on the health, lives, and futures around the world.

Join us in standing for reproductive choice in the United States and globally, by supporting access to abortion around the world.

What could the end of Roe vs Wade mean for women in the US?

Abortion is an extremely safe and common medical procedure. Globally, nearly 1 in 3 pregnancies end in abortion and in the US, 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

Yet abortion care continues to be one of the most heavily restricted healthcare services worldwide. These restrictions force women around the world to travel long distances to access the healthcare they need, requiring sign offs from multiple doctors, prolonging wait times.

With difficult journeys, and additional hoops to jump through, those with the least resources to travel, pay for childcare, and take time off work, find it hardest to access safe abortion care. Safe services become the privilege of the rich and others are pushed to unsafe or legally restricted methods.

What will abortion access look like post-Roe?

A post-Roe world is likely to be different to a pre-Roe world. Advances in early medical abortion care have shown that with access to quality medical abortion products, accurate guidance on how to self-administer the products, and access to in-facility care, if facing complications, women can safely self-manage their abortion.

However, if those seeking, providing, and supporting abortion care are at risk of criminalisation, accessing professional medical care in the case of complications, or miscarriages will present additional challenges. Initial research warns that maternal mortality rates will rise, and women of colour will be disproportionately affected.

We cannot let the politics of a few prevent people from accessing life-changing and life-saving healthcare.

How will Roe v Wade impact global reproductive rights?

When anti-choice politicians chip away at American women’s rights, the global anti-choice movement takes notice.

Emboldened by their victories in the United States, and often supported by US-affiliated groups, they’ll push for even more restrictions on abortion care, around the world.

The Global Gag Rule

In 2017, Trump reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which prevented all non-US NGOs from receiving US Government funding if they delivered, provided information on, advocated for, or even referred to abortion care. For us at MSI Reproductive Choices, this meant walking away from $120 million in US funding, which could have enabled us to support 8 million women with reproductive healthcare.

Many of our programmes witnessed a knock-on effect of the Gag Rule on abortion rights in their countries, as anti-choice groups were emboldened and those advocating for abortion rights were silenced. Although the Global Gag Rule was scrapped by President Biden’s Administration, it is yet to be permanently repealed and its impact lingers on.

The potential impact of Roe v Wade worldwide

Open Democracy have estimated that US right-wing Christian organisations spend on average $280 million every year attacking abortion rights and LGBTQIA rights globally. As a global reproductive healthcare provider, MSI has seen the impact on our programmes, our frontline providers and the women we serve.

Wherever we work, harassment and intimidation of our providers and clients is common. In the UK, US-linked protestors harass women and providers entering our clinics. And online, we are increasingly seeing attacks on our Facebook and WhatsApp services that offer people free advice and referrals for healthcare. Across our programmes, our providers face threats to their safety, even death threats, for simply supporting the right to choose.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen US-linked groups lobbying for the removal of sexual and reproductive health and rights. In Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria, our programmes frequently encounter advocacy playbooks exported by US anti-choice groups. In the UK, money from the US funds pregnancy crisis centres and doctors offering dangerous “abortion reversal” pills, targeting women seeking abortion with misleading promises of help and clinical advice.

Now that Roe vs Wade has been reversed, we expect to see a rise in anti-choice activities worldwide.

Join us in protecting the right to choose

At MSI, as one of the world-leading providers of sexual and reproductive healthcare, we are working to ensure that no one is left behind and everyone has access to reproductive choice.

Delivering healthcare across 37 countries, MSI focuses on reaching those with least access, such as adolescents and those without the resources to travel to facilities. In 2021, we delivered reproductive choice to over 67,000 people around the world every day and over half of those we supported (55%) had no alternative option for their service.

Safe abortion saves lives

We know that the majority stand with us in supporting the right to choose. The US is one of a small handful of countries that have restricted access to abortion care over the past few years. The vast majority have seen progress in reproductive rights, leading to better healthcare and opportunities for women.

Mexico, for example, has recently moved to decriminalise abortion care entirely, having seen the life-saving impact of abortion access in Mexico City. Since abortion was legalised in Mexico City in 2007, there have been zero abortion-related deaths and an 80% reduction in emergency cases.

At MSI, we are working towards a world where everyone, everywhere has the right to choose. Our work relies on the support of those who stand with us. When global abortion rights are at threat, please consider donating to our global abortion work.

Here are three ways you can help us #ProtectChoice:

1. Learn

Knowledge is power and if we know our rights, it makes it much harder to take them away. Learn about global reproductive rights and sign up to our newsletter to remain in the know.

2. Share

The more people sharing the potential global impact of this decision the better. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to spread the word with your community via #ProtectChoice.

3. Support

A regular donation to an abortion fund or provider will support access to abortion care, including for people who need financial or logistical support in accessing care.