SCOTUS Decision on Abortion is a Blow Against Human Rights

 In abortion, Human Rights

Photo Credit: Bob Korn / Alamy Stock Photo. All rights reserved

While we mourn, we can also organize.

Justice Samuel Alito’s draft abortion decision leaked Monday was a deeply unsettling earthquake in the midst of an already fragile and dangerous political landscape. Peace Action expresses its solidarity and empathy for all those who are feeling the impacts of this decision now and all those who will suffer because of it in the future. We recognize the anger, fear, pain,  grief, and more that people are experiencing.

At Peace Action we work to protect human rights globally, and we fight at home to protect our democratic power to make change. This coming decision would be a blow against all of that. As the United Nations Population Fund points out that “the fundamental human rights to life and to security of the person, as well as freedom from cruel and inhumane treatment, and from discrimination, among others, means that unnecessary restrictions on abortion should be removed and governments should provide access to safe abortion services.” These rights violations would fall disproportionately on people living in economic poverty, young people, and  Black, Indigenous, and people of color. While this case was being heard, the UN’s special rapporteur on health Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng submitted a brief arguing that overturning abortion rights would violate international human rights treaties ratified by the U.S.

When we look at this through a global lens we see, in one country after another, that abortion bans haven’t decreased the number of abortions. Instead, they increased unsafe abortions, especially for those in poverty. Studies also show that if people really want to reduce abortions, global investments in reproductive health, childcare, and paid parental leave have proved far more effective than bans.

All that is why many countries are expanding abortion rights while the U.S. heads in a retrograde direction. Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico have loosened restrictions on human rights grounds. Reversing abortion rights long after they’ve been won is widely seen as a form of democratic backsliding. As with capital punishment, and U.S. violations of human rights in wars, a ban on abortion rights would significantly tarnish the human rights record of the U.S. in the eyes of the world. 

This decision is part of the homegrown authoritarian turn that is manifesting in everything from the January 6 protests to ever-increasing restrictions on voting rights. Old notions of the fight over abortion as simply being a morally fraught policy decision or a partisan legislative battle are becoming outmoded. This decision is the endpoint in an oppressive power grab that could never have happened without voter suppression, discriminatory redistricting schemes, gaming the Supreme Court nomination process, and ambitious Supreme Court nominees flat out lying to the people’s representatives about their intent. 

In the draft, Alito argues that the only human rights protected by the constitution are those “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions…” whatever that means. This draft decision went right after the right to privacy which undergirds so many other human rights. The right to privacy is enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 12) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 17). The way this decision is argued unravels decades of precedent on privacy and rights – threatening many other rights people wish to enjoy such as LGBTQ+ rights, transgender rights, the privacy of communications and property from government intrusion, having access to contraception, and the freedom to marry who we wish. It’s critical to note that the creeping authoritarianism in this country and elsewhere feeds on the targeting of vulnerable groups with rights violations. 

As Peace Action we always ask what actions we can take to address the political issues we care about. Here are some of the top things people are doing:

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