Progress is winning: the US is restricting abortion rights but most other countries are doing the opposite

Policy and advocacy   |   13 June 2022   |   5 min read



Spot the odd-one-out. While the US Supreme Court has removed the right to abortion, the vast majority of other countries have been working to increase access to abortion.

People around the world have been watching on in horror following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs Wade. States in the US are moving quickly to introduce restrictive laws that deny millions of people access to safe abortion.

While the anti-choice movement celebrates this ‘victory’, it’s important to remember that progressive wins worldwide are far more frequent. Since 1994, only three other countries have rolled back abortion rights while 59 countries have expanded them. The US is joining a small minority and is on the wrong side of history.

Abortion is prohibited by law in only a small handful of countries. According to the World Health Organisation, 56 countries allow abortion upon a woman’s request and 118 countries allow abortion for varying levels of healthcare reasons, including to save the woman’s life. Take Germany for example—a woman is allowed an abortion on request until she is 12 weeks pregnant without having to explain her reasons. And then until 22 weeks, she’s able to get an abortion if she thinks it’s necessary for her health and living conditions.  

Progress is winning.  

What’s happening in the US around abortion rights?  

Abortion access in the US is becoming more and more restricted. Even while Roe vs Wade protected a person’s right to abortion, access has never been the same for everyone. There are hoops to jump through including long and difficult journeys, needing to take time away from work or childcare, and prolonged waiting times. This essential healthcare procedure becomes a privilege of the rich or those who happen to live in more progressive states, rather than a human right.

With Roe vs Wade overturned, abortion access will now be denied to millions more, with 26 states making moves to ban abortion. Initial research warns that maternal deaths will rise, and women of colour will be disproportionately affected.

There’s also concern that the decision will have a ripple effect on wider reproductive rights, with the anti-choice movement turning their minds and resources to restrict contraception, sexual education, and LGBTQ+ rights in the US and further abroad.  

The Supreme Court decision has been a devastating blow for women and for hard-won human rights. We stand in solidarity with women in the US while we continue to fight for everyone’s right to choose.  

Around the world, progress is winning 

What we’re seeing in the US is out of step with the majority of other countries. MSI continues to see abortion access expanding across the world, saving and transforming lives. 

Recently, countries like Ireland, Argentina and Thailand have made abortions legal, while Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea have decriminalised it (which means taking it out of the criminal law framework altogether.) We’ve also seen expanded access to abortion in Colombia and Argentina as a result of the powerful “Marea Verde” or “Green Wave” women’s movement in Latin America.  

These countries have seen the data and they’re making sustainable, evidence-based decisions. This is evident in places like Nepal where maternal deaths from unsafe abortion dropped by a staggering 72% when abortion was made legal. Decades of research shows that when women and girls are empowered to make decisions about their reproductive health, women, communities and economies flourish. The data doesn’t lie—safe abortion saves lives and helps us reach a more equal and healthier world.   

We are standing on the shoulders of women who have fought hard for these laws and the access to abortion that many of us have today. And with the US sadly regressing at the hands of a few, the international reproductive healthcare community is unwavering in our fight to protect choice. We are standing with those in the US who are affected. And we’re determined to protect the progress made around the world. We will not go back. 

You can #ProtectChoice by learning more, sharing our messages with your networks, and supporting the right to choose for everyone, everywhere.  

This blog was updated on 5 July 2022 to reflect the Supreme Court’s Roe Vs Wade decision. 

Read The Telegraph op-ed by MSI’s Latin America Regional Managing Director, Araceli Lopez Nava Vázquez: Americans could be forced to Mexico for safe abortions, a once unthinkable prospect.

We can’t be complacent. We need to be unified in our fight to protect progress around the world. Please join us by signing up to receive our emails and by donating to #ProtectChoice.  



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