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03.02.2023

Letter to UN Special Procedures on US Abortion Rights

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Executive Summary

Following the United States (US) Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022, people residing in the US who can become pregnant are facing a human rights crisis. This urgent appeal to United Nations (UN) mandate holders, supported by a coalition of 196 signatories, details these intensifying harms, discusses the ways in which Dobbs contravenes the US’ international obligations, and sets forth calls to action.

With the Dobbs decision, the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutionally protected right to access abortion, leaving the question of whether and how to regulate abortion to individual states. Approximately 22 million women and girls of reproductive age in the US now live in states where abortion access is heavily restricted, and often totally inaccessible.

The harms of the Dobbs decision detailed in this appeal include: the impact on women’s lives and health; the penalization of healthcare, including criminalization; threats to privacy from increased digital surveillance; infringement on freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief; and the disproportionate impact on marginalized populations. 

By overturning the established constitutional protection for access to abortion and through the passage of state laws, the US is in violation of its obligations under international human rights law, codified in a number of human rights treaties to which it is a party or a signatory. These human rights obligations include, but are not limited to, the rights to: life; health; privacy; liberty and security of person; to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief; equality and non-discrimination; and to seek, receive, and impart information.

The signatories call on the UN mandate holders to take up their calls to action, which include communicating with the US regarding the human rights violations, requesting a visit to the US, convening a virtual stakeholder meeting with US civil society, calls for the US to comply with its obligations under international law, and calls for private companies to take a number of actions to protect reproductive rights.