Dual Loyalty | Abortion Care

Abortion is health care, and abortion rights are human rights that must be guaranteed without discrimination. The right to reproductive autonomy and health is essential for individuals to survive, thrive, and live with dignity.  

Despite a clear trend of growing recognition of abortion rights in laws around the world, sexual and reproductive rights remain under attack in many places. Where countries criminalize abortion, they are effectively criminalizing pregnancy and subjecting pregnant individuals and their health care providers to risks of surveillance, harassment, arrests, and incarceration.  

In the United States, the Supreme Court’s rollback of the right to abortion in June 2022 has led to widespread violations of human rights. These impacts have been disproportionately felt by Black, indigenous, and low-income and rural women, who already face significant criminalization and discrimination in accessing health care.  On March 2, 2023, PHR and more than 190 organizations and individuals, including health practitioners and human rights experts, sent a letter to United Nations experts in response to the United States Supreme Court decision that repealed the constitutional right to abortion. Read the press release here.

The right to reproductive autonomy and health is essential for individuals to survive, thrive, and live with dignity.  

Dual Loyalty 

The criminalization of abortion creates a world where health care workers are being called upon to deviate from established medical standards, contravene medical ethics, and contribute directly to violations of their patients’ human rights. In the face of abortion restrictions, clinicians find themselves in the untenable situation of choosing between following anti-abortion laws or fulfilling their medical ethics to deliver impartial, evidence-based health care.  

This predicament is known as dual loyalty: a situation where clinicians find their obligations to their patients in direct conflict with their obligations to a third party, whether a state, health system, employer, or other entity that holds authority over them. All too often, such situations call on providers to violate patients’ human rights by violating bodily autonomy, denying necessary health care, or causing pain and suffering. 

Our Approach  

PHR works in solidarity with reproductive justice and rights partners around the United States in building a stronger, more inclusive, and human rights-based framework for abortion rights. We undertake research into the harms of criminalization of abortion in the United States on pregnant individuals, health care workers, and communities. PHR works to empower clinicians and advocates to speak out against the human rights violations occurring under these draconian laws.