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One Year On from Dobbs, Scientifically-Baseless Legislation Exacerbates Danger to Patients and Providers: PHR

To mark the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the following statement is attributable to Payal Shah, JD, director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones:  

“Over the last year since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse 50 years of federal protection of reproductive rights, we have witnessed the human toll that restrictive abortion bans – laws with no grounding in medicine – have taken on patients and providers across the country. PHR is documenting how these bans have harmed patients’ human rights, including access to high-quality reproductive health care. We are rigorously investigating cases of providers being caught between their oath to provide evidence-based, patient-centered care and compliance with legal measures set forth by state governments – laws that have asked clinicians to actively participate in the denial of human rights.

“One year on, initial warnings from seasoned health and human rights experts hold unequivocally true – politicians are in no position to be writing laws that impede patients’ access to essential medical care, especially when in line with their preferences and medical standards of care. These legislators are not medical professionals and have no competence to hand down harmful, scientifically-baseless restrictions that can cause significant trauma, suffering, and even death, for patients. Abortion is essential health care and existing laws stating otherwise have triggered a public health crisis – compounding existing health disparities and further exacerbating harms to the most marginalized communities.

“In its growing adoption of anti-abortion legislation across the country, the U.S. has situated itself contrary to the global trend of abortion liberalization and instead alongside other countries that boast scores of human rights violations – mirroring the draconian policies of autocratic governments. As the attack on abortion continues, the U.S. is directly violating its obligations under international human rights law.

“The right to abortion is the right to health care and bodily integrity. In the last 12 months, despite a clear rebuke of these laws from millions across the U.S., we are witnessing the refusal of policymakers to listen to those they serve. PHR furthers its calls on federal and state governments to immediately reverse existing abortion bans and enshrine the right to reproductive autonomy.”

A just-released video from PHR illustrates how anti-abortion legislation has exacerbated dual loyalty challenges for clinicians across the country, trapping providers between the law and their patients’ health. PHR is currently providing training for clinicians across the country on speaking out against human rights violations in the context of reproductive autonomy and health.

PHR’s recent study, “No One Could Say,” documents the impacts of inconsistent laws restricting abortion in Oklahoma on patients and providers. The study found that no hospital in Oklahoma was able to articulate clear, consistent policies for emergency obstetric care to pregnant patients. PHR is currently assessing the challenges clinicians are facing providing evidence-based care to pregnant people in other U.S. states with abortion bans.

In a recent coalition briefing paper to the United Nations outlining Dobbs’ contravention of U.S. international human rights obligations, PHR is mounting pressure from the international community to move the U.S. government toward enshrining the right to abortion access on the federal level.

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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