June 18, 2024

Applying International Strategies to Safeguard Abortion Access in the United States

The United States has faced significant challenges in maintaining abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v Wade decision almost two years ago. The introduction of state laws and policies that impose further restrictions on abortion care has made the legal and healthcare landscape increasingly complex. However, an analysis published on January 3, 2024, in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests that the U.S. can learn from successful strategies employed by other countries to restore and protect access to abortion.

The authors highlight the case of Ireland, where abortion was effectively banned in 1983. In response, the Abortion Rights Campaign emerged, focusing on normalizing abortion discourse, decreasing the stigma surrounding abortions, and framing abortion as a fundamental human right. Through these methods, the campaign created a significant shift in public awareness and increased support for a referendum on legalizing abortion. In 2018, the majority of voters (66.4%) favored ending the country’s ban on abortion, leading to the enactment of the Health Act of 2018, which allowed for the provision of free abortion services.

The authors also point to Colombia as an example of successful advocacy for abortion rights. In 2022, the country legalized abortion up to 24 weeks, thereby ending one of the oldest total abortion bans in the region. Women’s Link, a collaboration among various stakeholders including lawyers, public health officials, healthcare providers, feminist groups, and individuals affected by abortion restrictions, championed strategic litigation and advocacy efforts. These initiatives resulted in a landmark 2006 ruling by the Colombian Constitutional Court, which legalized abortions under specified circumstances.

Furthermore, the authors highlight the efforts of the Causa Justa coalition in the United States, which comprises 120 organizations and activists. This coalition used education and political pressure to demonstrate the disproportionate, ineffective, and discriminatory nature of criminalizing abortion. Their work aimed to protect equality and freedom of conscience for individuals seeking abortion care.

While the authors acknowledge that strategic litigation alone may not always succeed in the U.S., they emphasize the potential for change in the states’ judicial climate, especially with the presence of broad activist and legal coalitions advocating for universal access to healthcare.

Finally, the authors propose framing abortion as a public health issue, citing a 2018 study conducted in Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Portugal, South Africa, and Uruguay. These countries integrated abortion into comprehensive reproductive health packages and witnessed increased political will to establish or expand access to safe abortion services.

In conclusion, the authors emphasize that despite a regressive political climate, there is a global trend towards recognizing that criminalizing abortion does not reduce its occurrence but instead harms pregnant individuals. They highlight the importance of perseverance, as experiences have shown that failed referendum campaigns or strategic litigation efforts ultimately strengthen and unify the movement in support of abortion rights. By learning from successful strategies implemented internationally, the U.S. can work towards ensuring and protecting access to abortions.

1.      Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.      We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it