Global Abortion Rights: Roe vs Wade

abortion rights

On the 2nd of May, the magazine Politico broke the story that the Supreme Court of the United States of America had drafted a vote to overturn US-wide abortion rights. The right to abortion was written into US law after the landmark case Roe vs Wade in 1973, a ruling that current Supreme Court Justices are seeking to reverse. If Roe vs Wade is overturned, then the effects will be devastating, as more than half of US states would take action to ban abortions, forcing those who are seeking abortions to travel or face legal consequences. It would also have an international knock-on effect, thus affecting the lives of those seeking abortions the world over.

As part of their foreign aid packages, the US funds family planning programs for those in middle and low-income countries, including sexual health information and access to abortions. The overturning of Roe vs Wade would most likely lead to a cut in funding, leaving vulnerable pregnant people without the care they need. The US could also decide to pull almost 400 million dollars of funding from the World Health Organisation, which uses this money to fund international sexual health and abortion care programs. Without this money, recipient countries will not be able to afford to provide contraceptives or sexual health advice, as well as being unable to provide access to safe abortions. Similarly, these cuts to funding would lead to a cut in research and training, both in the US and worldwide. The development of new abortion procedures would be stunted, and healthcare professionals would no longer receive adequate training.

The Supreme Court is one of the most powerful institutions in modern politics. This is not only because it has the power to create legal precedence that is extremely difficult to overturn, affecting the lives of Americans worldwide, but also because the USA is still a cultural superpower. The authoritarian move towards scrapping long-standing abortion rights Is a signal to other governments that they could do the same. If Roe vs Wade is overturned, the US becomes international precedence for other countries that have many fewer checks and balances over centralised power that laws pertaining to Human Rights can be repealed. As well as this, the cultural stigma and taboo around abortions will likely increase. Already, abortions are viewed as an ethical or moral procedure, as opposed to a medical one. Making abortions illegal undoes the workaround destigmatising them, and closes down conversations about sexual health and human rights.

Countless studies have shown that making abortion illegal does not stop people from having abortions, it just takes away the option of safe abortion. In the US, and worldwide, it is the most marginalised who are most negatively affected by the refusal of good healthcare, as they are more likely to die during childbirth and suffer post-birth. The projected situation in the US if Roe vs Wade is overturned is a microcosm for the rest of the world, where the most privileged in society are largely unaffected, and the poorest pay with their lives. In America, black women are three times as likely to die during childbirth as white women, and they account for around 24% of abortions. The loss of this essential healthcare would be life-threatening, especially for those in poorer communities where other forms of contraceptives are unavailable.

Indisputably, the effects of repealing Roe vs Wade would be widespread and devastating for the abortion rights movement. Those who seek this essential healthcare would face more barriers, higher levels of stigma, and even criminal charges. Right-wing movements would have a stronger foothold, and other governments might use the US’s new policies as examples. But, that is not to say there is no hope. The fight for safe abortions must continue with the spread of education and awareness. Many countries continue to provide access to abortions, and online communities exist to encourage each other and keep people informed of their rights. Many voices from big corporations to lawmakers have spoken out against the US’s potential decision, and the progress made worldwide since the original Roe vs Wade ruling in 1973 is still something to be celebrated.

[1] Gerstein, J., & Ward, A. (2022). Exclusive: Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows. POLITICO. Retrieved 9 May 2022, from

[2] Hernandez, J. (2022). What overturning Roe v. Wade could mean for the rest of the world. Retrieved 9 May 2022, from

[3] Kitchens West, M., & Johnson, Z. (2022). The end of Roe v. Wade? Implications for global development. Donor Tracker. Retrieved 9 May 2022, from

[4] Palma, S., & Weaver, C. (2022). Abortion: what reversing Roe vs Wade would mean for American women. Retrieved 9 May 2022, from

[5] Yancey-Bragg, N. (2022). US could be ‘global outlier’ if Roe v. Wade is overturned. How do other nations handle abortion?. Retrieved 9 May 2022, from