LONDON, 19August 2022 – On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion. The Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Welbeing was devastated to hear this decision, whichis an appalling attack on womxn’s rights and the bodily autonomy of everyone who can become pregnant, and the effects will be immediate and far reaching. Over decades, research has demonstrated that abortion bans most severely impact people in marginalized groups who already struggle to access health care, including abortion.
The US Supreme Court decision will potentially result in life-altering consequences, including enduring serious health risks from continued pregnancy and childbirth, making it harderto escape poverty, derailing one’s education, career, and life plans, and making it even more difficult to leave an abusive partner. The ruling will also have deadly consequences, especially for Black and Latina women who already face a maternal mortalitycrisis. According to the CDC, for instance, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women1.
Restricting womxn’s access to safe and legal abortion services has many negative health implications. We’ve seen that these laws do not result in fewer abortions. Instead, they compel women to risk their lives and health by seeking out unsafe and illegal abortion services. Unintended pregnancy rates remain highest in countries that restrict abortion access and lowest in countries where abortion is broadly legal. According to Guttmacher Institute, in countries that restrict abortion, the percentage of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion has increased during the past 30 years, from 36% in 1990–1994 to 50% in 2015–2019. In the United States, the unintended pregnancy rate declined by 23% between 1990–1994 and 2015–2019. During the same period, the abortion rate declined by 48%. The share of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion fell from 50% to 34%.
Access to abortion is an unconditional human right and should be entitled as a basic health care service delivered as a part of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The right of every womxn to make autonomous decisions about their own body and reproductive functions is at the core of their basic rights to equality, privacy, and bodily integrity. To achieve this, it is essential to include safe abortion care with all other components of health care. Women should have ready access to information and services required to make informed decisions about their lives, including their individual sexual and reproductive health.
This is a moment of crisis but we are not powerless. We at the GAB join all the voices from around the world to recognize and acknowledge that everyone deserves the dignity and power to decide for themselves with regard to their own bodies. Self-determination, consent, safety, privacy, confidence and the ability to communicate and negotiate sexual relationsare key enabling factors that contribute to sexual health and wellbeing. Every individual must have the right to the highest attainable standard of health and freedom of expression.
Advocating greater attention to the relationship between sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure. The Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing (GABSHW) was convened by Reckitt. The views expressed on this platform are those of the boardand not of Reckitt.
The Global Advisory Board (GAB) for Sexual Health and Wellbeing was established in 2016 to advocate for a positive and inclusive approach to sexuality.
We are an independent group that has come together in recognition of the lack of equal attention to sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure in research, education, training, policies and programmes, regarding sexuality. This Board aims to highlight the importance of considering sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure equally and to provide a call to action to global organisations, policy makers, NGOs and governments to achieve a rights-based perspective on sexuality in policy, law, practice and research.