The decision to overturn the longstanding Roe v Wade ruling has raised concerns over the effect on reproductive healthcare provision in low income and middle-income countries. US policy moves on abortion have historically had a ripple effect around the world, particularly in countries where sexual and reproductive healthcare is funded by overseas donors.
In sub-Saharan Africa, which has the world’s highest abortion related deaths in the world, Roe v Wade has been cited as a precedent by advocates of more liberal abortion laws. Following the regressive ruling earlier this year, sexual and reproductive health organizations across the world have spoken out, arguing that it may set back policy gains, fuel anti-abortion movements, and exacerbate stigma.
In a statement, UNFPA, the United Nations' sexual and reproductive health agency, shared that 45% of the world's abortions are unsafe: "Almost all unsafe abortions currently occur in developing countries, and UNFPA fears that more unsafe abortions will occur around the world if access to abortion becomes more restricted. Decisions reversing progress gained have a wider impact on the rights and choices of women and adolescents everywhere."
Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, director-general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said the Supreme Court decision would not lead to a reduction in the number of abortions but force those who cannot access safe abortion care legally into “unregulated and unsafe methods.”
FIGO, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, shared similar sentiments in a statement signed by more than 100 global health-care groups.
Below we zero in on how the recent Roe v Wade ruling might affect African countries in a discussion between a leading health practitioner and advocate, and an Africa Matters Initiative ambassador. Currently, there are 12 countries in Africa where abortion is outlawed, ten where it is permitted to save the life of a woman, and only four – South Africa, Cabo Verde, Tunisia and Mozambique – where it’s permitted.