Field & Outreach, September 2022
Written by Melvine Ouyo, Population Connection Board Member | Published: September 19, 2022
Roe Reversal: Domestic Threat and Global Betrayal
The United States Supreme Court decimation of domestic reproductive rights through the overturning of Roe v. Wade is part of an all-out assault on reproductive freedoms everywhere around the world.
Women and girls across the globe will suffer as these attacks continue. Right now, they’re still recovering from the impacts of the Global Gag Rule, a deadly U.S. policy that wreaked havoc on communities around the world when in place during the nightmarish reign of Donald Trump.
In my homeland of Kenya, communities suffered numerous harmful impacts of the Global Gag Rule, including increased maternal death, increased unsafe abortions, funding losses that led to clinic closures, termination of programs, and health service disruptions. Similarly, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is triggering devastating impacts including inaccessibility to reproductive health services and safe abortion services.
The reversal of Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will lead to a high number of teenage and unplanned births and increased maternal mortality and morbidity rates. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court decision threatens to silence and stigmatize foreign health care providers from talking about sexual and reproductive health service integration including abortion care. It will only add to the stress and confusion experienced by overseas abortion providers who depend heavily on family planning aid from the U.S.
Moreover, this decision will negatively influence foreign sexual and reproductive health and rights policy development and implementation and lead to even stricter policies, especially in more conservative countries. For instance, the Ministry of Health in Kenya secretly launched the Reproductive Health Policy 2022-2032, a document that did not address critical issues like teenage pregnancies, assisted reproduction, and high maternal mortality resulting from unsafe abortions; the policy instead validates dangerous and deceitful crisis pregnancy centers. It excludes any and all interventions to deal with unsafe abortions and provides no health interventions for women who wish to terminate unwanted pregnancies, even under the limitations outlined by the Kenyan Constitution.
Because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, in Kenya, we are already witnessing incitement among anti-women groups, including CitizenGO (an ultraconservative organization headquartered in Spain and working in over 50 countries), which has renewed its opposition narrative against sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion, and plans to disrupt democratic processes across Africa. For example, in advance of Kenya’s August 9, 2022, elections, CitizenGO organized to disrupt the election by poisoning the public dialogue surrounding the female candidates with an anti-women narrative.
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade can only be described as a betrayal of women and girls’ freedom—particularly of Black women and other women of color—and is a threat to many other civil rights.
This new threat to sexual and reproductive rights comes on the heels of women and girls across the globe struggling to bounce back from the impacts of Covid-19, as well as the impacts of other recent catastrophes like civic upheaval and climate crisis challenges—including flooding, cyclones, and other extreme weather conditions.
Leshan Kereto, Founder and Director at Tareto Africa, recounted similar challenges faced by Maasai women and girls including sexual and gender-based violence and early and forced marriages, which he says have been exacerbated by the impacts of Covid-19 and prolonged drought in Maasai land.
Even though individuals, authorities, and governments, including the European Union Parliament, have condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the future of reproductive freedom is at stake given the vast influence of U.S. foreign policy and the American history of imposing draconian reproductive health policy on countries overseas.
President Biden is right when he says that the U.S. is in a state of public health emergency. Congress must take swift action to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land, to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, and to do everything in its power to protect the fundamental right to bodily autonomy for people in the United States and around the globe.