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Banning abortion by US states putting lives of millions at risk: UN Experts

Following the US Supreme Court judgement removing the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022, millions of women and girls in the United States have seen an alarming deterioration in access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, experts from United Nations said in Geneva recently.

The experts including, Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Ivana Radačić (Vice-Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Meskerem Geset Techane and Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and Ashwini K.P., Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance said that as of January 2023, abortion is now illegal in 14 states across the country and the repercussions of the decision of the US Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organisation have echoed across the whole legal and policy system.

Pointing out that the judgement violated f International Human Rights Law, the experts said,  “The regressive position taken by the US Supreme Court in June 2022, by essentially dismantling 50 years of precedent protecting the right to abortion in the country, puts millions of women and girls at serious risk.”

Abortion bans in 14 states, according to experts, could violate the right of women to privacy, bodily integrity and autonomy, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, equality and non-discrimination, and freedom from torture.

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“Women and girls in disadvantaged situations are disproportionately affected by these bans,” they reiterated.

Noting that existing exceptions, although narrow, have proved unworkable in practice, they added, “The conditions of the exceptions often do not reflect medical diagnosis and sometimes exclude health-threatening conditions.”

“Even in cases where physicians determine that the abortion can go ahead, they may still find it difficult to assemble a full team given the reluctance of other health professionals.”

They warned that the Supreme Court decision would have a chilling effect on doctors and healthcare workers who may face legal ramifications for their care decisions, such as those involving medically necessary or life-saving abortions or the removal of foetal tissue from women who had incomplete miscarriages.

“We are particularly alarmed by the increasing reports of threats to the lives of abortion service providers across the country,” they said.

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