Professor Jaya Dantas, Dr Claire Rogers, Dr Abela Mahimbo, and Professor Angela Taft
Recently, United States (US) political news outlet Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme Court majority decision that would explicitly overturn Roe v. Wade and with it, 50 years of the Supreme Court’s legal precedent upholding the constitutional right to abortion.
While the draft opinion is not yet final, and abortion currently remains legal, removing the constitutional right to abortion in the US would have a devastating impact on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the American people, especially women. The news has created international discussion and protests regarding the implications and flow on gendered impacts and is a concerning development within the global context of increasing attacks on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, girls and people who can become pregnant.
When healthcare systems fail to provide accessible and appropriate sexual and reproductive health care, including the provision of safe abortion services, the bodily autonomy, dignity, and well-being of individuals are eroded. Individual autonomy and choice are the central core of sexual and reproductive health and rights, however, the fulfilment of these fundamental rights takes place within a broader sociocultural, political, legal, economic and healthcare context.
The recent media discussion around Roe v. Wade has brought into focus the ongoing battle to provide safe, equitable, and accessible abortion services throughout Australia. In 2021, South Australia became the final Australian jurisdiction to decriminalise abortion, however, the law is yet to be enacted. And while Western Australia has now enacted “buffer zones” (preventing the harassment of pregnant people outside safe abortion services), State criminal law continues to regulate medical doctors who provide abortions.
In recent years, Australia has seen an increase in sexual and reproductive health service provision. However, barriers to safe, accessible, affordable, and compassionate abortion are still a challenge for many who seek this essential healthcare.
The PHAA stands by the principle that access to sexual and reproductive health services (including safe abortion services) is a human right. We call for Australia and the international community to acknowledge and support the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people.
As the final resolution and decision will be passed by the US Supreme Court in June or July 2022, the PHAA International Health Special Interest Group (SIG) and the PHAA Women’s Health SIG will be keeping a close eye on developments and will contribute further to this complex debate.
Professor Jaya Dantas is Convenor of the PHAA International Health SIG, of which Dr Claire Rogers is Co-Convenor. Dr Abela Mahimbo is Co-Convenor of the PHAA Women’s Health SIG, of which Professor Angela Taft is also a member.