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Pathfinder Voices: What the US Abortion Rights Reversal Means for the World

Protest participants in Mozambique hold up a sign that reads: “We will build a better world where women’s rights will be respected.” Photo: Estrella Alcade

 

No amount of warning or preparation can soften the blow. It hurts to watch as millions of Americans lose their constitutional right to abortion—the right to decide when and whether to be pregnant.

In the countries where Pathfinders live and work, access to critical health care like safe abortion varies widely. We work closely with our local partners around the world to ensure that where the law allows for it, health systems can offer quality, safe, comprehensive abortion. We advocate for removal of legal barriers to safe abortion wherever we can. We partner with communities to overcome the stigma and obstacles that result in women and girls suffering and dying from unsafe abortions.

While many countries around the world are doing the hard, necessary work of broadening access to safe abortion and reproductive health care, the United States has become an outlier in the global trend toward progress. It is now one of only four countries in 28 years to restrict abortion rights. The ripple effects will be felt for years to come.


Make no mistake: at its core, this ruling is a denial of the full and equal rights of women as citizens. It is a denial of the rights of women to make private decisions about their religious and moral beliefs. It is a denial of the rights of women to have the liberty to decide what happens to their bodies and the course their lives will take.” Rebecca Herman, Senior Technical Advisor, Gender-Based Violence and Maternal and Newborn Health, US

Read Rebecca’s blog >>


The overturning of Roe is a serious human rights violation happening in the United States while the rest of the world is making remarkable progress in the opposite direction in favor of women’s sexual reproductive rights and wellbeing. The momentum gained over the past two decades with the liberalization of abortion laws in more than 35 countries scattered in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and other corners of the globe cannot be interrupted by the regression made by the United States.” Steve Luboya, Regional Senior Technical Advisor, Democratic Republic of the Congo


As the United States was rudely awakened from a dream of ‘progress,’ most related conversations in India were tinged with an element of pride. People were ‘proud to live in India’ where abortion is not criminalized. We had, at last, trumped the progressive West, in some area it would seem. The West had taken a step back, and India was ‘showing the way’ to the global community. As nationalistic pride swelled, few noticed what was amiss in this mass moment of chest-thumping and West bashing. How ‘progressive’ is India really, when it comes to abortion care? Do we care to understand how easily (or otherwise) women and girls most in need can access safe and affordable abortion services, despite the legality and availability of the technical procedure? This is the important question that India must focus on and answer.” Pritha Biswas, Senior Technical Advisor, Family Planning, India


Since the United States was an example of the right to safe abortion, the overturning of Roe could increase restrictions worldwide. The accompanied poor healthcare quality will result in more women dying.” Irenee Ndabagiye, Country Director, Burundi


There is much to grieve with the overturning of Roe. And, I don’t underestimate the global challenges of climate change, political instability, persistent attacks on democracy, nor the toll they take on our ability to continue to find the will to fight. But for each of these challenges, we are working on solutions, and at Pathfinder, are part of a broad network of partners, civil society organizations, governments, and health workers who work every day to ensure women have access to the care they need.” Sarah Peck, Communications Advisor, US

Read Sarah’s blog >>


In the Ethiopian context, decriminalization of abortion and expanding access to safe abortion care on certain grounds including health concerns to the baby and the mother, and if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, has resulted in the rapid declining of unsafe abortion and its complications—including death. Criminalizing and restricting safe abortion care would mean forcing women and girls to opt for the inevitable unsafe abortion with unattended complications, including sepsis, bleeding, and even death in their backyards— I don’t think we, in our right mind, will allow that to happen.” Ketsela Desalegn, Technical Advisor, Ethiopia


Personally, I am confused, and I wonder if all this energy that I have been putting in over the years to ensure that abortion rights in Africa become a reality will ever be capitalized on one day!  Explain to me how to remain excited and continue to look at the eyes of my daughter, a young feminist and activist, and tell her: ‘This is it! We’re almost there…’ just like the curse of Sisyphus! it’s amazing to see that women’s bodies remain the playground of some people’s egos!” Nathalie Nkoume, Technical Advisor, Adolescents and Youth, Cameroon

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