Safe abortion care should be accessible to everyone everywhere
The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling today to overturn the landmark decision on Roe v. Wade and decades of legal precedent recognizing access to safe abortion care as a constitutional right. Analysts predict that this ruling will result in 26 states moving swiftly to ban abortion.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides safe abortion care as a critical part of our comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services. We do not run medical operations in the US, but we see the devastating consequences in countries around the world where people do not have access to safe and legal abortion.
MSF-USA President Africa Stewart, an OB-GYN based in Atlanta, issued this statement in response to the Supreme Court decision:
Safe abortion care is essential health care
When women, girls, and pregnant people do not have access to safe abortion care, they often find other ways to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I have treated people who have undergone risky procedures because they felt they had no other choice. I have witnessed firsthand the unbearable pain and suffering that no one should be forced to endure.
We know that unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal mortality worldwide. Some seven million people around the world are hospitalized every year with complications from unsafe abortion. Some will be permanently disabled. Those numbers are horrific, but we do not even know the full scale of the problem because so many people cannot even access the medical care they need.
Criminalizing abortion only causes more deaths and harm
As medical providers with experience working in more than 70 countries, we want to remind policy makers that criminalizing abortion only causes more deaths and harm. Where abortion is most restricted, it is more likely to be unsafe. Where abortion is legal and safe services are available, deaths and disability from abortions are reduced. Restricted access to care often disproportionately affects people of color, people living in poverty, and people in remote or rural areas.
It is shocking to see the US moving backward just as many other countries are moving forward to expand access to safe abortion care. Safe abortion care should be accessible to everyone everywhere.
Dr. Stewart has completed five surgical field assignments with MSF and served as a guide for the organizationʼs Forced From Home exhibition about the global refugee crisis. She was elected to the board of directors in 2017. She continues to support women's health care locally and abroad with an emphasis on education and prevention.