November 30, 2023
Dr Paul Mushombe Nibhumba: Testimonial from Doctors of the World Medical Coordinator in Mali
Today, on May 3, 2022, the conservative US Supreme Court has announced its plans to strike down Roe vs. Wade, leaving millions of women without safe, legal abortion. In the past year, the USA has seen several states implement increasingly restrictive abortion laws.
The Texas Heartbeat Act prohibits abortion once a heartbeat is detected, which can occur 6 weeks into a pregnancy. It leaves enforcement up to private citizens, who will be awarded a bounty of $10,000 if they successfully win a lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion. Several states followed suit with increasingly restrictive laws.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000. Women will not be persecuted for getting an abortion. The ramifications however, will be on their access to safe abortion.
Another pertinent case that will determine women’s reproductive autonomy is the U.S. Supreme Court judgment on Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A drastic cut from the 24 week line previously ruled on. The court’s decision is expected to be released in June.
Once the Supreme Court rules to overturn Roe, abortion could immediately be prohibited in 24 states and three territories. Millions would be obligated to travel to receive legal abortion care, however for many it would be impossible due to financial and logistical reasons.
As abortions are restricted or outright banned, even under circumstances of rape or incest, women will be forced to make dangerous decisions regarding their health. The bills proposed today will only compel women to risk their lives and health by seeking out unsafe abortions. Up to 13% of maternal deaths worldwide are a result of secretive and unsafe abortions, which can include the risk of complications like infection, sepsis, trauma, hemorrhage, and death.
Black women, people of color, indigenous, and low-income communities already lack access to healthcare and comprehensive sexual education. They face poorer health outcomes due to the policies legislated that deliberately target their autonomy and health. These abortion bans will exacerbate health, economic, and social disparities that exist already today.
Doctors of the World actively supports the right of women to control their own bodies as they wish, to choose whether or not to have children, and decide how many children they want and at what intervals. Exercising sexual and reproductive rights influences and strengthens the exercise of other basic human rights, and also helps not to get caught in a vicious circle of inequality and poverty.
Since its foundation, Doctors of the World has strived to provide women with comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortions. In cases where abortion is illegal, we have worked with civil society organizations and healthcare professionals to help remove the barriers that hamper access to sexual education, safe and effective methods of contraception and the management of unwanted pregnancies.
Gersen, J. S. (2021, December 4). The Mississippi abortion case and the fragile legitimacy of the Supreme Court. The New Yorker. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
Gerstein, J. & Ward , A. (2022, May 2). Exclusive: Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows. POLITICO. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
Kirkegaard, D. (2021, November 29). The disproportionate harm of abortion bans: Spotlight on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. Center for Reproductive Rights. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
Roeder, A. (2021, December 13). The negative health implications of restricting abortion access. Harvard News. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
Sneed, T. (2021, December 5). What comes next after the Supreme Court’s signal on abortion rights. CNN. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
Photo Credit: ©Drew Angerer / Getty Images and © Elisabeth Rull