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‘Irreparable Harms for Patients and Health Workers’: PHR Statement on Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization 

In response to the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by the U.S. Supreme Court, the following statement is attributable to Payal Shah, J.D., director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones:  

“PHR condemns the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which rolls back reproductive rights in the United States by decades and threatens the lives of pregnant people across the country. 

“The Court’s silence on the impacts of this decision on bodily autonomy and health is appalling. This decision will trigger nothing short of a public health crisis, exacerbate existing health disparities, and further endanger already marginalized populations most. 

“Access to abortion is a human right and essential to ensuring health, equality, and autonomy. Yet, as the dissenting opinion notes: 

“‘The Court today says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs… The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision.’ 

“The criminalization of abortion does not decrease abortions – it only makes abortions less safe and contributes to increases in maternal mortality. The Supreme Court’s decision will likely lead to irreparable harms for patients and health workers across the country.  

“The decision also places the United States in clear violation of international law and globally-recognized health and human rights standards. As United Nations Special Rapporteurs stated in their amicus curie brief submitted to the Supreme Court in this case, ‘the United States would contradict international human rights law by overturning its established constitutional protections for abortion access—both by failing to recognize abortion access as necessary for women’s autonomy, equality and non-discrimination and by retrogressing on human rights contrary to international law.’ Through this opinion, the United States is falling out of step with a global trend towards liberalization of abortion law.

“Following today’s ruling, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortions. In large swaths of the country, it will be near-impossible to access comprehensive reproductive health care. The impacts will be felt most acutely by marginalized individuals who have limited means to seek safe and legal services, including low-income women and women of color.  

“Abortion is health care, and an essential part of a spectrum of evidence-based, rights-respecting clinical reproductive health interventions. With Roe v. Wade dismantled, health workers will soon be placed in the untenable situation of having to decide between obeying new anti-abortion laws or fulfilling their medical ethics to deliver impartial, evidence-based health care. Violence and threats against health workers who provide reproductive health services – ranging from death threats to license revocation to physical violence – are on the rise and will likely increase as abortion is outlawed in states across the country. We stand in solidarity with health worker colleagues  as they navigate this unprecedented rollback in reproductive rights and seek to provide science-based, rights-respecting health care to all in need.  

“Physicians for Human Rights joins the chorus of medical organizations and advocates calling on states to enact protections and provisions to further safeguard access to safe abortion, including through offering protection, services, and support for patients and health workers who come from other states. States should shield people who access abortion services and health workers from prosecution and extradition to hostile states.  

“As the majority decision also assailed the legal precedents that underpin other fundamental rights, including LGBTQ+ protections, access to contraception, and interracial marriage, the Biden administration, Congress, and state legislatures must work assiduously to safeguard these human rights from further assault.” 

“The dissenting opinion highlights the profound reversal of rights that women and people who can become pregnant will soon experience: 

“‘After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had. The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away.’ 

 “With this decision, the U.S. stands on the wrong side of history. 

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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