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If Confirmed, Roe Reversal Would Represent a ‘Dangerous and Appalling’ Rollback of Human Rights

In response to reports that the United States Supreme Court has prepared an initial majority draft decision which would overturn abortion rights, the following statement is attributable to Payal Shah, J.D., director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: 

“If confirmed, the Supreme Court’s move to overturn Roe v. Wade would represent one of the greatest rollbacks of human rights in the United States in decades. Reversing long-established abortion rights protections would flagrantly violate human rights and lead to severe health harms for pregnant people across the country. This step would place the United States in contravention of the global trend of abortion liberalization. 

“Abortion care is health care. The scientific literature shows that criminalizing abortion does not reduce the incidence of abortion; it only makes abortions less safe. The myriad consequences of overturning Roe would fall disproportionately on marginalized individuals who have limited means to seek safe and legal services, including low-income women and women of color. 

International human rights bodies have made it clear that laws restricting access to abortion can represent violations to the rights to health, life, privacy, equality, and in some cases, the right to be free from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. The Supreme Court has not yet issued its official ruling and abortion remains legal in the United States. However, a ruling overturning Roe would open the door to state and local policies that contravene globally recognized health and human rights standards. 

“We are alarmed that such a ruling could result in extensive attacks and legal threats to health providers who act in line with medical ethics to provide safe abortion care. The ruling would likely cause a severe chilling effect on access to safe abortion care as well as other forms of reproductive health services, impeding the ability of health workers to offer science-based, independent, high-quality, comprehensive care to their patients. 

“We are also concerned that, in the draft obtained by Politico, Justice Samuel Alito appears to take aim at the legal precedents underlying other fundamental rights, including bedrock LGBTQ+ protections. Further, the rollback of Roe could also have global reach, leading to more restrictive sexual and reproductive health and rights policies in other countries. 

“At a time when all governments should be working to protect and expand human rights, including reproductive rights, a drastic reversal on Roe would represent a dangerous and appalling setback.” 

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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