Recognizing Attacks on Abortion Care as a Public Health Emergency, Strengthening and Uniting Public Health Voices for Reproductive Justice

This is the abstract of a proposed policy submitted to the American Public Health Association (APHA).  Full text:  Recognizing Attacks on Abortion Care as a Public Health Emergency, Strengthening and Uniting Public Health Voices for Reproductive Justice

APHA policy has long held that access to the full range of reproductive health services, including safe, legal abortion, is a fundamental right. International covenants recognize individuals’ human rights to decide whether and when to have children and how many children to have, and to have the information and means to do so, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.  However, measures that obstruct access to abortions have accelerated in number and severity in the U.S. since 2010. They now constitute a public health emergency, requiring concerted mobilization by the public health community.  Through local, state and national laws and regulations, and court decisions, these measures: 1) Restrict funding and coverage for abortions, building on the Helms Amendment, which restricts federal funds for abortions internationally; and the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions in the U.S., primarily through Medicaid. 2) Obstruct patients’ access to services. 3) Obstruct providers’ ability to practice. These cascading restrictions drive out safe and legal services, placing women at greatly elevated risk of injury or death from unsafe abortions; or they violate women’s personal bodily autonomy by coercing them to carry unintended pregnancies to term.  They systematically ignore or distort scientific evidence; stigmatize abortion; communicate loaded, destructive messages regarding women’s worth, sexuality and competence; and discriminate against women. State anti-abortion measures are associated with worse population health, and exacerbate health disparities and economic, social and political inequalities by gender, race/ethnicity, and income. The public health community must call attention to the negative public health consequences of these policies, and should affirmatively assert the conscientious provision of abortions, within the context of a multi-sectoral agenda to achieve optimum population health in all arenas of policy, to advance economic equality and social justice; and as a bedrock of individual freedom.

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